English/Irish Hybridity: Second-generation Diasporic Identities
The Irish are the largest and longest-established non-British minority ethnic group in Britain, but their difference is recognised only in the migrant generation. Unlike the second generations of the so-called 'visible' ethnic groups, children of Irish-born parents in England are assumed to be British (or English) because they are (mostly) white and have no Irish accent. The invisibility of Irish-British identities reflects both an assumption by the majority society of 'white' cultural sameness and self censorship because of ongoing anti-Irish attitudes. This paper reports on the findings of the Irish 2 Project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council to examine the social positionings and identities of people born in Britain to one or two Irish-born parents. Group discussions and interviews with people of immediate Irish descent were carried out in four English locations (London, Manchester, Coventry and Banbury). These show that significant elements of Irishness persist in a multitude of ways which have no public recognition. Their expression is confined to interstitial spaces of resistance — the home, school friendship groups, community organisations. They are strongly contextualised in space and over time, and are also socially differentiated by class, gender and age.
Keywords: Hybridity, Identity, Second-generation, Irishness, Englishness
Prof Bronwen Walter
Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, Department of Geography, Anglia Polytechnic University