During the past fifteen years, many thousands of people have passed through the Irish asylum system, especially migrants from Africa. Public debates in Ireland, in common with other EU Member States, have been framed by ‘integration’ discourse. However, not enough is known about lived experiences of integration, especially among former asylum seekers and their families. This book builds on several years of in-depth ethnographic research to provide a striking portrait of the integration experiences of African migrants in Dundalk, Drogheda and Dublin. The book draws on contemporary anthropological theory to explore labour integration, civic and political participation, religion, education and youth identity. The stories of several key research participants are threaded through the book. The book draws out the rich voices of African migrants who struggle in their everyday lives to overcome racism and exclusion and, yet, are producing new cultural formations and generating reasons for societal hope. Set against the backdrop of a severe economic crisis and the ever-present hand of neo-liberal policies, this book is about everyday struggles and new visions for the future.
In September 2009 the radio station LMFM hosted a live debate on racial tensions in the taxi industry in Drogheda. Allegations were made about African-born drivers operating unlicensed taxis and failing to use photo IDs – according to one commentator, ‘They all look much the same to the general public’. This chapter takes this incident as a starting point from which to explore the ways in which the taxi industry has become a key a site of racialization and labour integration in Ireland. The chapter discusses migrant drivers’ hopes for upward social mobility but also attends to their everyday experiences of racism and discrimination in an industry characterized by government at a distance, liberalization, and extraordinary work pressures. The chapter also pays particular attention to the role of rumours within the local cultural landscape.
Taking the Irish local and European elections in 2009 as a point of entry, this chapter follows two Nigerian women as they navigate the vagaries of Irish local politics in Dundalk and Drogheda. This chapter explores political participation by ‘new immigrant candidates’ as they engaged with a public caught in the teeth of an extraordinary economic and political crisis. It is also an ethnographic examination of the sensibilities connected to forms of migrant and minority political mobilization.
This chapter opens with an ethnographic description of a ‘Jesus Walk’ through Drogheda, a ‘pilgrimage-like’ walk undertaken by migrants that aimed to bless and re-enchant the landscape of an Irish town. This chapter explains the importance of religion in the lives of Nigerian and Congolese migrants living in Ireland, from those within the asylum system to migrant-led, Pentecostal church leaders preaching throughout Ireland. One of the broad questions herein is: what are the relationships between religion and integration? Herein, again, we focus on everyday experiences as a way through which to understand the imbrication of religion into other aspects of people’s lives and discuss the ways in which migrant-led churches are facilitating what they see as a re-enchantment of landscape.
Opening with an ethnographic snapshot from the book launch of one of our key research participants, this chapter engages with the contribution of an important figure in the local Nigerian community as she engages with the Irish education system. This ethnographic chapter is situated in one primary school facing the challenges of integration on the ground. We reflect on multicultural education in Europe and consider the ways in which multiculturalism is articulated in the everyday lives of parents, teachers and school children. This chapter also documents responses by Pentecostal churches and parents to Halloween, which includes holding a rival ‘Hallelujah night’. We take this as an opportunity to reflect broadly on multiculturalism and education in Ireland.
What is everyday life like for the second-generation African-Irish youth? This chapter begins with an ethnographic account of an African beauty pageant in Ireland and shows the complex interactions between generations across gendered and cultural lines. This chapter teases out the lived experiences of parenting and of growing up in African-Irish families – from parents’ hopes and fears for their children to young Nigerian and Congolese children’s expressions of identity, difference and conformity.