The Irish in Us

Irishness, Performativity, and Popular Culture

The Irish in Us

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 33 illus. Published: February 2006

Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Film, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

Over the past decade or so, Irishness has emerged as an idealized ethnicity, one with which large numbers of people around the world, and particularly in the United States, choose to identify. Seeking to explain the widespread appeal of all things Irish, the contributors to this collection show that for Americans, Irishness is rapidly becoming the white ethnicity of choice, a means of claiming an ethnic identity while maintaining the benefits of whiteness. At the same time, the essayists challenge essentialized representations of Irishness, bringing attention to the complexities of Irish history and culture that are glossed over in Irish-themed weddings and shamrock tattoos.

Examining how Irishness is performed and commodified in the contemporary transnational environment, the contributors explore topics including Van Morrison’s music, Frank McCourt’s writing, the explosion of Irish-themed merchandising, the practices of heritage seekers, the movie The Crying Game, and the significance of red hair. Whether considering the implications of Garth Brooks’s claim of Irishness and his enormous popularity in Ireland, representations of Irish masculinity in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, or Americans’ recourse to a consoling Irishness amid the racial and nationalist tensions triggered by the events of September 11, the contributors delve into complex questions of ethnicity, consumerism, and globalization. Ultimately, they call for an increased awareness of the exclusionary effects of claims of Irishness and for the cultivation of flexible, inclusive ways of affiliating with Ireland and the Irish.

Contributors. Natasha Casey, Maeve Connolly, Catherine M. Eagan, Sean Griffin, Michael Malouf, Mary McGlynn, Gerardine Meaney, Diane Negra, Lauren Onkey, Maria Pramaggiore, Stephanie Rains, Amanda Third


The Irish in Us is a ground-breaking addition to scholarship in the fields of Irish and American Studies, Whiteness Studies, and, not least of all, Film Studies and Cultural Studies.” — Sinéad Moynihan, Scope

“Negra collects essays that explore lrishness as an a Ia carte ethnicity by examining American popular culture's penchant for all things Irish and at the same time making important connections between Irish, cultural, race, and ethnic studies. . . . Highly recommended.” — S. M. Erby, Choice

“Negra persuasively claims that Irishness has become ‘transnationalized’, a ‘form of discursive currency’ open to commodification. . . . [M]any of the essays in this collection are certainly fascinating. . . .” — Paddy Dolan, Journal of Consumer Culture

“The book succeeds in exploring the multifaceted ways that the trope of Irishness has suffused American popular culture, and it lays bare the ideological implications of the heightened performative and mobile qualities of Irishness.” — Mary P. Corcoran, Field Day Review

“The core argument of The Irish in Us is aptly summed up in its cover image, depicting a kitsch leprechaun tattoo superimposed onto an anonymous fair-skinned shoulder: from Celtic Twilight to Celtic Tiger, Irishness represents both commercial and cultural capital. . . . [W]hat is perhaps most striking about this collection is an unusual sense of coherence for a book with twelve different authors.” — M/C Reviews

“Within the context of an explosion of writingon changing meanings of the contemporary performativity of (transnational) Irishness, The Irish in US is one of best texts, marked by theoretical innovation, conceptual adventure, diverse methodological/epistemological positions, and most engaging illustrative material. It is a wonderful read.” — Mairtin Mac an Ghaill, Ethnic and Racial Studies

“Diane Negra has built a dynamic cultural studies anthology from the sophisticated research of a new generation of scholars. ‘Irishness,’ still an attractive or scandalous stereotype, is here understood through reflection on nation, ethnicity, class, and gender—reflection that is in turn animated by the obtuseness of ‘Irishness’ in its newly global situation. Expressing a variety of views through vivid examples, this anthology becomes itself exemplary.” — Dudley Andrew, Yale University

“The essays in this collection are to Irish studies what B. B. King and the Chicago Blues are to the Delta Blues: they draw on an existing body of work, virtuosically extend it, and at the same time electrify it, creating new forms in the process. In this respect, this collection is the book that many in Irish studies have been waiting for.” — Margot Backus, author of The Gothic Family Romance: Heterosexuality, Child Sacrifice, and the Anglo-Irish Colonial Order

“This sparkling, sophisticated, and original collection analyzes such diverse topics as the genealogical quest for Irish roots, Celtic white supremacists, and post–September 11 identity politics. Provocatively, Diane Negra suggests that ‘Irishness’ has become a way for Americans to claim a safe and fashionable ethnic identity. Essential reading for Irish and American cultural studies.” — Elizabeth Cullingford, author of Ireland’s Others: Gender and Ethnicity in Irish Literature and Popular Culture


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Diane Negra is Senior Lecturer in the School of Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia. She is the author of Off-White Hollywood: American Culture and Ethnic Female Stardom and a coeditor (with Jennifer M. Bean) of A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
The Irish in Us: Irishness, Performativity, and Popular Culture / Diane Negra 1

“Still ‘Black’ and ‘Proud’”: Irish America and the Racial Politics of Hibernophilia / Catherine M. Eagan 20

The Wearing of the Green: Performing Irishness in the Fox Wartime Musical / Sean Griffin 64

“The Best Kept Secret in Retail”: Selling Irishness in Contemporary America / Natasha Casey 84

“Papa Don’t Preach”: Pregnancy and Performance in Contemporary Irish Cinema / Maria Pramaggiore 110

rish Roots: Genealogy and the Performance of Irishness / Stephanie Rains 130

Ray Charles on Hyndford Street: Van Morrison’s Caledonian Soul / Lauren Onkey 161

Garth Brooks in Ireland, or, Play That Country Music, Whiteboys / Mary McGlynn 196

“Does the Rug Match the Carpet?”: Race, Gender, and the Redheaded Woman / Amanda Third 220

Dead, White, and Male: Irishness in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel / Gerardine Meaney 254

“A Bit of Traveller in Everybody”: Traveller Identities in Irish and American Culture / Maeve Connolly 282

Feeling Éire(y): On Irish-Caribbean Popular Culture / Michael Malouf 318

Irishness, Innocence, and American Identity Politics before and after September 11 / Diane Negra 354

Contributors 373

Index 377
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3740-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3728-7
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