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Title: Irish Protestant identity : a narrative exploration
Author: Walsh, Tony
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2013
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The dissertation constitutes a narrative study on the complex experience of being Irish and Protestant and the author initially draws on a number of his own formative life experiences to introduce the investigation. The study uses the research genre of narrative inquiry, commenting on its relevance to the discipline of education, to explore the experience and identity of the tiny, but socially significant Protestant minority, in a country where religious identity is still highly significant. Stories, conversations arid autoethnography, which make up the core of the disseJ1ation, are drawn from the author's life experience and more particularly from a year-long period of field work. Presented in both traditional ethnographic and in non-traditional forms, using both direct and sometimes re-constructed or re-imagined voices from the fieldwork, they describe concrete lived experience of research participants. Each chapter constitutes an experiment in layered meaning making with a number of clear components. These include: i) A brief presentation of the chapter's purpose; a description of the particular methodology used including its definition, limitations and the ethical issues entailed; comment on the specific purposes involved in its use at this juncture and a description of what the method reveals which others may not ii) The presentation of data as story, discussion or re-constructed conversation which allows the emergence of a range of particular issues in an evocative way iii) A commentary on the emerging issues and a theoretical analysis using one of a range of lenses drawn from the conceptual repertoire of poststructuralism. Concluding sections of each chapter comment on what has emerged and form links with what is to follow in ensuing sections of the study. Each chapter thus represents a further step in elaborating a variety of emerging perspectives on the complexity of Irish Protestant experience. Not every theme embodied in the stories and conversations at the core of dissertation is the subject of explicit analysis or comment; instead they go to create a backdrop which expands the consciousness of readers concerning the context and experiences of Irish Protestantism. The titles of the work's five chapters (and in "general the second quotation at their outset) are all extracts from fieldwork conversations. C Responses from fieldwork suggest a community which has responded variously to Ireland's dramatic changes since Independence. Initially Protestants, as visible remnants of colonial occupation, were catapulted from a position of former security and influence to one of extreme marginality and fragility. Initial violence, murder and persecution modified over time to a less potent marginality (coupled at times with remarkable generosity) where the minority were generally defined as aliens and outsiders in what was to become an increasingly hegemonic Catholic Gaelic state. In order to survive (particularly against the draconian application of the Ne Temere papal decree) and to preserve a distinctive ethos, the minority withdrew into a hermetically sealed range of interconnected communities which simultaneously catered for virtually all their religious, educational, medical and social needs, as well as constituting a clearly recognizable alternative to the all-prevailing meta-culture. Despite these measures, continued emigration and the depredations of intermarriage (and the implied enforced signing over of children and consequently property) to the majority Catholicism led to a situation where slow extinction appeared inevitable. In this constrained context Protestants rarely spoke out publicly against oppressive policies or practices. Stories collected from the fieldwork also suggest that silence increasingly came to be employed within the community to minimize a recognition of the prevailing unpleasant realities with which the religious minority lived. Views expressed by participants suggest that this silencing resulted in a diminished ability for reflexivity and agency within the community and limited contribution to public debate and policy formation from what was, for many years, the largest minority voice in the country. Recent economic shifts, cosmopolitanism and crises in Catholicism have contributed to an era in which Protestantism finds itself an acceptable other, its schools and churches thronged with disillusioned erstwhile Catholics. In this unexpected space stories of transformation and opportunity appear to compete with old tales of discrimination, extinction and depression in defining its identity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available