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    Studying social movements in a movement-become-state: research and practice in postcolonial Ireland


    Cox, Laurence (2016) Studying social movements in a movement-become-state: research and practice in postcolonial Ireland. In: Social movement studies in Europe: the state of the art. Berghahn Books, pp. 303-318. ISBN 978-1785330971

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    Abstract

    The site of some of western Europe’s most dramatic movement episodes, Ireland is a peculiar case for studying social movement research. The 1798 uprising was a significant element of the Atlantic Revolutions; the Land War (1879 - 1882) initiated one of the world’s most successful land reforms, with a near-complete transition from landlord-tenant relationships to peasant proprietorship; the period between 1916 and 1923 saw one of western Europe’s few successful independence movements; the Northern Irish “troubles” from 1969 – 1994 were Europe’s longest-running episode of lethal internal violence; 1978 - 1981 saw one of the few outright defeats of nuclear power worldwide; the women’s and GLBTQ movements brought about a more dramatic change from institutionalised Catholic power than in most Northern contexts; and working-class community organising has played a role in Ireland comparable to Latin American contexts. On the face of it, a strong social movements research agenda would seem natural. However, most of these topics have been successfully colonised by other disciplines. In the independent state, history has emphasised questions of national legitimacy and the view from elites, often at the expense of researching popular organising. Feminist and GLBTQ scholarship has similarly prioritised a celebratory or critical account of the women’s movement in which movement aspects are routinely secondary. Where Irish history is less unique, such as agrarian unrest, labour history and the left, strong tendencies to atheoretical empiricism have restricted wider dialogues. As might be expected in a small post-colonial setting, movement-based theorising and historiography have also made significant contributions, but as with academic work the key concerns have typically been to legitimate movements and explore their relationship to the state, particularly because movement intellectuals have often become (or started as) academics and state functionaries. The result, as in India, is a field dominated by discussions of the choices made by actors (often narrowed to leading figures or political parties) at well-known historical junctures, and their role in inflecting processes of state formation and restructuring. In parallel, Irish movements have also been a privileged ground for literature and debates over national identity. Partly as a result, research on movements has often sought refuge in North American and British canonical orthodoxy and has minimised engagement with these literatures’ movement-relevant aspects. A primary concern has been to convince others of the value of social movement studies for interpreting Ireland, rather than asking how the Irish experience might inform the development of social movement studies. Given the very particular course of Irish history, this is a missed opportunity.

    Item Type: Book Section
    Keywords: social movements; movement-become-state; research and practice; postcolonial; Ireland;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology
    Item ID: 7063
    Depositing User: Dr. Laurence Cox
    Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2016 10:59
    Publisher: Berghahn Books
    Refereed: Yes
    URI:

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