Irish Travellers: The Identity Construction of an Indigenous Ethnic Minority within the Irish Society

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Kornelia SAMMET, Leipzig University, Germany
Irish Travellers are a minority of about 30.000 people (Census 2016) in the Irish Society, which became only recently acknowledged as an indigenous ethnic group. However, until today, many Irish travellers live in deprived conditions and are socially excluded from many services and parts of the Irish society. They experience individual and institutional racism and are affected by higher rates of unemployment than the Irish majority, e.g. by health inequalities and low educational attainment (Irish Traveller Movement Report 2014). For centuries, travellers were an essential part of the rural economy in Ireland before they were forced to settle in the second half of the 20th century.

In my presentation, I will analyse the identity construction of Irish travellers based on qualitative data collected in different sites in Ireland. The main reference of the travellers’ identity is still the binary drawn between travelling vs. settled people. I will reconstruct different aspects and dimensions of this binary and discuss their implications and consequences. A special focus will be laid on the boundaries between travelling and settled life, on the difficulties of living on its threshold and especially on the possibilities and consequences of a ‘crossing of the boundary’. Additionally, I will discuss the problems of a minority to keep and transform traditions in changing life conditions.