Mapping ‘difference’
Irish Travellers and the Questionnaire
in ‘Insubordinate Irish’
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This chapter argues that ‘new’ Irish essentialism, which accompanied the discourse of the emergent nation-state, employed an ideological framework of ‘control’ or ‘representation’ that was quite similar to that which had accompanied British imperialism. This new essentialism was reductive by nature and, consequently, it obscured the existence of heterogeneity in Irish culture, including subaltern groups such as Irish Travellers. The 1952 Tinker Questionnaire was one small part of the emergent nation-state's attempt to re-nationalise and ‘re-Gaelicise’ Ireland. The chapter then highlights some primary aspects of the most significant discourse the Questionnaire's respondents constructed vis-à-vis Travellers. The resentments and tensions between the Traveller and settled communities relating to begging requests on the part of Travellers had their roots in fearful beliefs, including that of the ‘evil eye’ in relation to Travellers and their alleged ‘magico-religious’ powers. The association of Travellers with subversive activity and spying remained strong in the Irish imaginary.

‘Insubordinate Irish’

Travellers in the text


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