Sunday, January 4, 2009
East Ballroom Foyer (Hilton New York)
Historians writing about Irish America in the period 1914-1918 are conflicted as to the level of assimilation and integration of Irish Americans to the host society. The period itself is complex in that it encompasses the Great War, 1916, progressivism and reform, traces of American imperialism and one hundred per cent Americanism. There is a confluence of American and Irish national issues, questions of identity and identification all bound up with a period of international crisis.
General works dealing with
In this poster I will extend the dialogue around the re-fashioning or reconstruction of Irish American ethnicity in the WW1 period. To do this I draw on the concept of the ‘invention of ethnicity’ expounded by Conzen et al. which recognizes ‘the duality of the “foreignness” and the “Americanness” which the immigrants and their children experienced in their everyday lives’ and which seeks to reconcile these apparently irreconcilable opposites. Grounded in real life context and social experience the invention of ethnicity they claim ‘is a process of construction which incorporates, adapts, amplifies preexisting communal solidarities, cultural attributes and historical memories’. This is particularly urgent in times of war and national crisis. To do this I draw in particular upon the front page cartoons carried in the Irish World as the largest circulation Irish American newspaper published in New York. These political cartoons therefore are useful non textual representations – located within the political perspective of the paper from which they are drawn they nonetheless highlight the wider culture and can serve as a useful access point towards a deeper understanding of the cultural milieu. In attending to these images I try to achieve a more nuanced close reading of the historical source with regard to what I believe to be this transitional period for Irish Americans in relation to their own and others’ understandings of their ethnicity and also of their patriotism and allegiances.
 Sterba, Christopher M., Good Americans: Italian and Jewish Immigrants during the First World War, (2003); Gentile Ford, Nancy, Americans All! Foreign-Born Soldiers in World War I, (2001).
 Kenny, Kevin, The American Irish: A History (2000); Meagher, Timothy J., Inventing Irish-America, generation, class and ethnic identity in a New England city, 1880-1928 (2001)
 Luebke, Frederick C., Bonds of loyalty: German Americans during World War 1, (1974)
 Conzen, Kathleen Neils, David A. Gerber, Ewa Morawska, George E. Pozetta, Rudolph J. Vecoli, “The invention of ethnicity: a perspective from the USA”, in Journal of American Ethnic History, 12: 1992, pp 3-41