Academic ‘truth’ and the perpetuation of negative attitudes and intolerance towards Irish Travellers in contemporary Ireland
in Tolerance and diversity in Ireland, North and South
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This chapter addresses the construction of Traveller identity in Ireland. It is argued that contemporary discourses of tolerance, diversity and multiculturalism, rather than leading to respect for Travellers and increased ‘tolerance’ of their lifestyle, have merely perpetuated their historical situation and an assimilationist approach towards Traveller culture. To shed light on why negative and intolerant attitudes to Travellers continue to prevail, the chapter traces and deconstructs the way in which academic research has been an influential element of the complex discursive landscape which frames Travellers’ lives. It describes some of the processes of thought and styles of investigation by which academics and sedentary society have come to ‘know’ Irish Travellers, and discusses how academic research and the construction of particular ‘knowledges’ has contributed to creating and maintaining power relations of inequality. Finally, it argues for the importance of alternative forms of scholarship which draw on stronger participatory approaches and examine broader societal narratives pertaining to the sedentary society.

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