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    Sex and Respectability in Ireland: A Chronology of Cultural Change

    Szabo, Frank Joseph (2018) Sex and Respectability in Ireland: A Chronology of Cultural Change. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    This thesis is concerned with the changing cultural attitudes towards sexuality in contemporary Ireland. Adopting both a conceptual and a chronological approach, this project explores the interconnected themes of respectability, sexuality, and biopolitics through an investigation of, or making visible, a series of ‘figures’ and ‘sites’ that demarcate historical and contemporary understandings of sexual respectability in Irish culture. This study occurs at a time when Ireland is experiencing a belated modernity, yet grappling with a traumatic history of institutionalisation of persons deemed to have deviated from normative sexual values, that continues to re-emerge into the national consciousness. While recent plebiscites have been interpreted as a rejection of Ireland’s abjection of ‘unrespectable’ bodies, this dissertation argues that Ireland’s contemporary sexual politics are still undergirded by ideas of respectability. Chapter One serves to locate this research within a distinguished body of literature on the anthropology of Ireland, particularly in relation to questions of sexuality and kinship. Chapter Two analyses the emergence of the Irish state, and the biopolitical operationalisation of Catholic social and moral teaching, in the twentieth century, and how the legacy of that period continues to mould contemporary social thought and political action. Chapter Three considers the contested role of the institution of marriage within Irish culture: once iconic of a prescriptive, exclusive, and traditional form of kinship, it now is a marker of Ireland’s reputation as a socially progressive liberal democracy. Chapter Four analyses the figure of Panti Bliss, the drag queen whose comments on homophobia in Irish culture set the stage for the same-sex marriage referendum. Much like the marriage movement, Panti Bliss represents the sanitisation, desexualisation, and the rendering respectable of the gay man in Western culture. Chapter Five studies the role of HIV/AIDS in Irish culture. Retaining a partial focus upon Panti Bliss’s role as one of the few publicly known HIV positive individuals in Ireland, it considers the impact of the respectability politics of the Marriage Equality movement upon the prolonged silence around sex, gay men, and the escalating HIV crisis in contemporary Dublin.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Sex; Respectability; Ireland; Chronology; Cultural Change;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Anthropology
    Item ID: 15542
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 22 Feb 2022 10:34
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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