The making of the Irish Traveller Community

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The making of the Irish Traveller Community

Author: Ina Ruckstuhl, QEH Department of International Development/Department of Anthropology, University of Oxford, ina.ruckstuhl@gmail.com

The Irish Traveller Community represents an indigenous minority group defined largely by its supposedly 'traditional' lifestyle of mobility within the Irish state. By considering the perception of mobility as a cultural trait, this paper traces the development of discursive themes regarding Irish Travellers from the 1950s through to the present day, categorising these into a class-poverty and a culture-ethnicity paradigm. It is illustrated how such discursive categories in turn informed the state's practical interaction with the Traveller community, shaping political action, policy and legislative developments. This analysis highlights the simultaneous maintenance and marginalisation of the Traveller Community, creating a definitional 'other' in the process of constructing an Irish national identity.