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Myth, memory and emotional adaption
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What role does memory play in migrants’ adaption to the emotional challenges of migration? How are migrant selfhoods remade in relation to changing cultural myths? This book, the first to apply Popular Memory Theory to the Irish diaspora, opens new lines of critical enquiry within scholarship on the Irish in modern Britain. Combining innovative use of migrant life histories with cultural representations of the post-war Irish experience, it interrogates the interaction between lived experience, personal memory and cultural myth to further understanding of the work of memory in the production of migrant subjectivities. Based on richly contextualised case studies addressing experiences of emigration, urban life, work, religion and the Troubles in England, chapters illuminate the complex and contingent relationship between politics, culture and migrant identities, developing a dynamic view of the lived experience of British–Irish relations after 1945. Where memory is often regarded as a mechanism of antagonism within this relationship, Life History shows how migrants’ ‘recompose’ memories of migration as part of ongoing efforts to adapt to the transition between cultures and places. As well as shedding new light on the collective fantasies of post-war migrants and the circumstances which formed them, Life History thus illustrates the cultural and personal dynamics of subjective change over time: migrants located themselves as the subjects of a diverse and historically evolving repertoire of narratives, signalling adaption, difference and integration as co-articulating features of the Irish experience in post-1945 England.

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Myth, memory and emotional adaption: the Irish in post-war England and the ‘composure’ of migrant subjectivities
Barry Hazley

This chapter develops two critical arguments, namely that existing approaches to Irish migrant identity within the historiography have failed to capture the complexity of Irish subjectivities in England; and that, where it has been employed as a record of migrant experience, oral historical research has been complicit in this failure, due largely to the ‘recovery’ approach which scholars have typically employed to reconstruct the Irish migrant experience in the twentieth century. To address these limitations, the chapter outlines an alternative approach based on Popular Memory Theory, the core framework employed in the book, before giving an account of the book’s core themes, dynamics, contents and approach to sources.

in Life history and the Irish migrant experience in post-war England
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The public meanings of emigration and the shaping of emigrant selves in post- war Ireland, 1945– 1969
Barry Hazley

This chapter reconstructs the discourse of national crisis generated around mass departure in post-war Ireland and explores how it shaped the production of emigrant subjectivities. Based on a close reading of five oral narratives of leaving, contextualised through discursive analysis of local and national newspaper reportage, parliamentary debates and contemporary novels and travel literature, the chapter examines how subjects interact with a set of popular constructions of the emigrant as they attempt to narrate the particular circumstances and considerations that conditioned their own experiences of leaving for England. As well as showing how understandings of migrant agency were mediated through this ‘politics of exit’, the chapter underscores the emotional dynamics of family life as a key context shaping the personal meanings of departure, providing insight into the complex role played by leaving stories as sites of psychic conflict and integration within migrants’ overall migration narratives. Triggered by the act of recalling their decision to leave, these emotional processes point to the difficulties of leaving in the past, but also to the present self’s ongoing imaginative dialogue with the people and places left behind, and to how this conditions the reconstruction of past experience.

in Life history and the Irish migrant experience in post-war England
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liminality and the dis/composure of migrant femininities in the post- war English city
Barry Hazley

This chapter analyses the different ways three women, newly arrived in England, interact with competing constructions of the female migrant to explore the changing constitution of migrant femininities at an interstitial moment in the migration journey. Inscribed through the discursive practices of priests and Catholic welfare workers, journalists and popular novelists, these constructions made available a number of different frameworks on which women could draw to order their memories of what was a potentially destabilising moment in both the life and migration cycles, when migrants were between families and places. Yet tensions within and between such frameworks could also create problems for the process of self-construction, problems in which these discursive tensions were complexly imbricated with subjects’ ambivalent desires for significant others both ‘back home’ and newly encountered in the place of arrival. Where migration is sometimes represented as a process via which women ‘achieve’ a sense of autonomous selfhood, this chapter offers a snapshot of the difficult process of ‘becoming’: instead of a linear narrative about the rejection or reproduction of patriarchy, what emerges is an account of the re/formation of gendered migrant subjectivities as the unstable and incomplete product of competing discourses and conflictual desires.

in Life history and the Irish migrant experience in post-war England
Myth, memory and masculinity in Irish men’s narratives of work in the British construction industry
Barry Hazley

This chapter examines the meanings male migrants attach to their experiences of work within the post-war British construction industry. Setting the analysis within the broader context of change within the post-war British economy and culture, the chapter uses the personal work histories of three migrants to explore the industry as a site for the re/negotiation of migrant masculinities. As well as investigating how the performance of distinct roles, different occupational trajectories and changing conditions within the industry shaped subjects’ experiences in different ways, the chapter foregrounds how migrants’ collective experiences within the sector have generated a range of competing popular representations of the identity of the Irish construction worker. Through analysis of diaries and memoirs, popular novels and folk song, industry publications and newspapers, the chapter shows how these images form part of a ‘communal imaginary’ of the Irish in post-war England, expressive of the collective fantasies of the post-war generation, and how they routinely feed back into the production of personal memory, complicating as well as facilitating subjects’ efforts to ‘compose’ coherent narratives of belonging. Through attention to this process, the chapter traces the different ‘rewritings’ of the migrant self that occur over the life course.

in Life history and the Irish migrant experience in post-war England
Negotiating religious selfhoods in post-1945 England
Barry Hazley

While recent commemorative histories mythologise fervent devotion to the faith as a distinctive attribute of the post-war migrant experience, Catholic observers at the time feared migrants were ‘falling away from the Church’. This chapter explores the changing place of religion in migrants’ lives in England and the complex agency of Catholic ideals in shaping religious selfhoods over the migration journey. Where contemporary observers feared the secularising effects of urban culture upon migrants, the chapter shows how continuity and change articulated simultaneously within the evolution of migrants’ religious identities. Regulatory religious ideals offered some migrants a model of virtuous and socially respectable settlement in which they could recognise aspects of their own fears, ambitions and aspirations, while other, often later migrants drew on a public critique of clerical power to narrate a story of renunciation and personal transformation. Irrespective, however, of whether individuals embraced or derogated their religious heritage, narratives of religious change always registered disavowal as an ambivalent process, involving the management of conflicting desires for autonomy from and conformity to deeply internalised religious prohibitions.

in Life history and the Irish migrant experience in post-war England
Otherness, belonging and the processes of migrant memory
Barry Hazley

Focusing on the memory of a single racially charged event, namely the 1996 Manchester bomb, this chapter analyses how three migrants negotiate problems of self-positioning and belonging dramatised by the effects of the Troubles in England. The event of the bomb, it is argued, serves as a lens through which to illuminate the wider workings of Irish communal memory of the conflict, including its dynamic relation to English societal narratives on the Troubles and the processes of personal memory production. Attending to the articulation of these dynamics, the chapter explores how the ambivalence of English discourse was mirrored in the internal divisions of Irish communal memory, and how individuals’ personal histories of adaption over the life course conditioned how these divisions were interpreted and incorporated into the self. Personal memories of the bomb were thus not unmediated recollections of the event or its aftermath, but embodied attempts to negotiate this complex discursive landscape in order to manage or resolve the contradictions of identification which the Troubles dramatised. As such, they shine a light upon the Troubles as a significant identity problem for the Irish in post-war England, revealing of the complex, variegated and mutating nature of Irish belongings during the period.

in Life history and the Irish migrant experience in post-war England
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Myth, memory and minority history
Barry Hazley

This chapter concludes the study by situating the Irish experience, and the approach employed to analyse it, within the context of current debates on British national identity and the critical potential of minority history. It argues that while the recovery of marginalised histories remains important in challenging sanitised myths of British fairness and beneficence, a vital contribution of minority history concerns its capacity to illuminate the workings of ‘identity’ as an intrinsically historical and dynamic process. In this, it is argued, Popular Memory Theory offers a useful dialogic framework, enabling the processes of migrant memory to be mobilised as a resource for analysing the production, reformation and diversification of migrant subjectivities under changing historical conditions.

in Life history and the Irish migrant experience in post-war England