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Mincéirs Siúladh: an ethnographic study of young Travellers’ experiences of racism in an Irish city

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posted on 2022-12-20, 10:12 authored by Sindy JoyceSindy Joyce
This thesis is an ethnography of how young Travellers experience and negotiate urban space in the city of Galway, Ireland. This research builds upon the understanding that our relationships to space are mediated through our social and cultural identities. The core objective of the research is to understand how young Travellers’ movements through, access to and use of public and commercial urban space are shaped by their ethnicity. My research focuses on Travellers’ relationships to the socially constructed, policed and governed boundaries which control and regulate their spatial mobility. I also seek to determine whether young Travellers’ have developed tactics to resist or challenge attempts to limit their access to and use of urban spaces on the basis of their identity. Drawing on de Certeau’s (1984) observational methodology of ‘walking’ to analyse daily urban life, this research documents young Travellers’ experiences in and of urban space, using focus groups, maps and interviewing to further explore the meaning and significance of these experiences. Through ethnographic analysis, I investigate how young Travellers’ temporarily resist and disrupt social and spatial boundaries and how the dominant systems of power authorise and inscribe these boundaries between young Travellers and urban spaces. I am aided in this analysis by theoretical lenses and perspectives drawn from the sociology of racism, the sociology of space, and social geography. Situated within the field of Traveller studies (Ó hAodha, 2006; Bhreatnach, 2006a and 2006b; Helleiner, 2003.), the theoretical conclusions of this thesis connect the local to the global dynamics of anti-Traveller racism, and will be of relevance to scholars and activists both in Ireland and internationally. It contributes to theorisations of the character, operation and effects of anti-Traveller racism, particularly with respect to its spatial manifestations. Although there is an important body of work which addresses the relationship between anti-Traveller racism and space at the macro-level, in terms of the practice of nomadism, this is the first piece of research to examine the impact of racism on Travellers’ mobility at the micro-level. In doing so, this research advances upon understandings of the sedentarist nature of laws and policies which govern space (Delaney and Rucksthul 2006; James 2007; Crowley 2007), to reveal the hegemonic status of sedentarist ideology even at the micro-level. This thesis also highlights the agency of young Travellers, who have developed a range of tactics to negotiate racialised boundaries and the risks associated with traversing them.


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