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Community, difference and identity: The case of the Irish in Sheffield

Rionach Casey


There is a growing body of research in racial and ethnic studies on the processes of identity construction within minority ethnic populations. This article seeks to build on this work by analysing emerging collective identity formations in an ‘invisible’ minority ethnic group. Based upon focus groups and in-depth interviews with Irish people in Sheffield, the article aims to advance three key arguments. First, the concept of community is central to an Irish collective identity, but is negotiated in a multiplicity of ways. Second, Irish collective identity has been shaped not only by demographic differences but by shared experiences of non-recognition and stereotyping. Third, there is a simultaneous assertion of an Irish identity running parallel with a perception that the ‘traditional’ Irish community may have to re-invent itself in response to changing demographics at the local level. The paper concludes by considering the implications of these arguments for an understanding of Irish ethnicity in multicultural Britain.

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