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The Practice of Identity and an Irish Sense of Place

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ABSTRACT Following in the wake of Benedict Anderson's work in particular, cultural geographers and cultural studies scholars have analyzed the nation and nationalism as primarily 'imagined' or abstract entities. Coincidentally, the greatest analytic attention has been given to nationalist representations of place, rather than to the everyday discursive practices constitutive of the nation as lived. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu's practice theory, in this paper I develop the beginnings of a corporeal approach to the nation. Here the relationship between the practice of identity (the embodiment of gendered and sexualized subjectivities via discursive practice within culturally defined spaces) and an Irish nationalist sense of place is explored. In this approach, analytic considerations of identity and space are collapsed within the shared material and metaphoric medium of the body. Irish nationalism and the nation are analyzed as corporeal materialities via an ethnohistorical focus on late nineteenth-century changes in the political economy of 'peasant' and nationalist bodies. The analysis suggests that a particular matrix of constructions of femininity and masculinity was extended paradigmatically throughout the society in the latter half of the nineteenth century. These paradigmatic changes are characterized as a 'heterosexing' of bodies and places linked to economic change and the rise of the confessional state.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 1997

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