Brewing Identities

Globalisation, Guinness and the Production of Irishness

by Brenda Murphy (Author)
©2015 Monographs XVIII, 215 Pages
Series: Global Studies in Education, Volume 21


While Guinness is a global product, it still contains references to Ireland and it occupies a particular place in imaginings of Irishness. Brewing Identities is unique in that, while it focuses on the (re)production of a specific kind of ethno-national identity– Irishness – it is simultaneously transnational in scope, as the author maps the trails of products, people and symbolic constructs through a globalised world. In pubs from Dublin to London to New York, the reader is taken on a multi-sited ethnography, where stories unfold through observation, interview, and conversation with fellow patrons and pub personnel, while drawing from an ample sampling of discursive and interactional sources from which the author derives her own interpretations and conclusions. Additionally, the book follows the trail of the political economy of Guinness. Brewing Identities produces an engaging and well-grounded mode of inquiry informed not only by multiple sources but by the interdisciplinary field of cultural studies, one that is particularly sensitive and responsive to both the convergences and discontinuities of diverse conditioning factors at work in the generally nebulous and complex sphere of identity production.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Chapter 1. Why Guinness?
  • Introduction
  • Introducing and Situating Brewing Identities: A Roadmap for the Journey.
  • Something about Circuits
  • What’s Ahead
  • Introduction to Section One
  • Introduction to Section Two
  • Notes
  • Section 1. Producers & Text — Guinness Advertising — Dublin, London, New York and Southern Africa
  • Chapter 2. Producing Guinness, Producing Irishness
  • The Irish Story: Custodians of Guinness
  • Johnson’s Round: The Pint on the Circuit
  • Guinness Means…Ireland?
  • How Did the Product Become a Sign for Ireland?
  • Guinness Is OURS!
  • Why Do Consumers and Non-Consumers Think They Own Guinness?
  • How Does Guinness Respond to This National Ownership of Guinness in Ireland?
  • Producers’ Occlusion
  • Other Exclusions—Gay Consumers, Gay Readers
  • Disenfranchised Audiences
  • A Paradox in the Wings
  • Conclusion: Commodification and Other Possibilities
  • Notes
  • Chapter 3. Producing Guinness: Rituals, Myths & Histories
  • Introduction
  • Describing Rituals and Myths
  • Johnson’s Round: The Pint on the Circuit
  • Guinness’s Rituals
  • Product Rituals—The Pour, the Surge, the Wait, and Saturn’s Rings
  • Watching and Waiting
  • After the Wait: The Rings of Saturn, Personalisation and Quality Control
  • A Marketing Ritual
  • Consumer Rituals
  • Consumers ‘Doing Things’ to the Pint
  • Consumer Intelligence…Maintaining Standards
  • Rites of Passage
  • Using the Knowledge of Ritual for Exclusion Purposes
  • Personalising the Pint…Making It Mine
  • Rituals of Religion
  • Myths and Histories
  • Guinness Is GOOD for You
  • The Natural Debate and a Semiotic Ramble
  • Other Myths—Gender Issues and ‘A Job for Life’
  • Market Research—Tapping into Rituals, Myths and Histories
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 4. Reading Guinness: A Sign of Irishness
  • Johnson’s Round: The Pint on the Circuit
  • A Word about Globalisation
  • Behind the Scenes: Guinness Advertising Over Time—Agencies and Adverts.
  • 1960s—SH Benson’s Interpretation of the Irish Market
  • 1970s: Arks—on Dry Land, but Stand by for the Flood
  • 1980s: Celebrations of Irishness, with a Nod to the Rest of the World
  • 1990s: All Change—New Faces, New Places
  • 1990s: Arks
  • 1990s: Bell
  • 1990s: HHCL
  • 2000s: The Noughties—A New Millennium and a New Agency for Guinness
  • Departures and Breaking the Mould
  • Murky Changes—Beneath the Surface of “Dark Life”
  • Into the “Dark Life”
  • Points/pints to Ponder
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Section 2. Readers and ‘Lived Experiences’ or ‘Everyday Life’ — The Pub & the ‘Irish’ Drinker
  • Chapter 5. Interpellating Genders: Gendered Places, Pub Spaces
  • Johnson’s Round: The Pint on the Circuit
  • Men Only—Reading the Adverts: Textual Gendering
  • Heterosexual Masculinities—Ireland, UK, the US, Southern Africa
  • Power, Michael Power and Commodifying ‘Masculinity and Colour’
  • Talking to Women OR Not Talking to Women: Insidious Portrayals
  • On-going Absences
  • Guinness and the Pub
  • The Journey to the Contemporary Pub Landscape
  • Men in the Pub: Men Only—No Women Allowed
  • Bonding and Being a Regular—Social and Emotional Support
  • Negotiating Membership—In-groups, Peer Pressure, Inclusions and Exclusions
  • Men and Their Fathers: Markers of Masculinity and Rites of Passage
  • And Back Full Circle—Men Only
  • Women in the Pub: More Moments of Inclusion and Exclusion
  • Permission to Enter
  • Diasporic Men and Women in the Pub
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 6. The Diasporic Pub: Racism, Authenticity and Hybridity
  • Inclusions and Exclusion in the Pub Space: Lived Experiences of Irish Migrants
  • Johnson’s Round: The Pint on the Circuit
  • Negotiations in the Excluding Pub: A Home Away from Home for Irish Migrants
  • Varieties of Racism (I) The Irish as the Excluded ‘Other’
  • Anti-Irish Expressions of Exclusion: No Dogs, Blacks or Irish
  • Varieties of Racism (II) Them and Us: We, the Irish; You, the Other.
  • Varieties of Racism (III) Us versus Us: We, the Irish; Us, the Irish
  • Intra Racism (i) “‘What Part Are You From’?” or Cormac’s story
  • Intra Racism (ii) Paddies and Narrowbacks, New Migrants vs. Other Generations
  • Binary Oppositions in Action—Paradoxes at Play
  • Paradoxical Belonging
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Chapter 7. Pure Genius: The Irish Consuming in Ireland
  • Johnson’s Round: The Pint on the Circuit
  • Drinking and the Construction of Identities: Tell Me What You Drink and I Shall Tell You Who You Are
  • Drinking and the Construction of Irish Identities: Consuming Irishness
  • Totem Drinks: Consuming Irishness, Consuming Guinness.
  • Consuming to Produce ‘The Self’
  • Unconscious Identities and Badges of Identity
  • Rituals and Myths—Supporting the Product and Telling a Story
  • Tradition—Owning the Story
  • Politicising Identity: Irish Identities
  • Performing Identities
  • Drinking Politics
  • Conclusion: Borderless Worlds, Localism and Nationalism.
  • Notes
  • Chapter 8. Guinness Doesn’t Travel but the Irish Do: Being and Doing ‘Irish’ Abroad
  • Johnson’s Round: The Pint on the Circuit
  • The Irish Diaspora Story
  • Destination the US or Britain?
  • The Contemporary Picture
  • New Migrants—Global Economic Crisis
  • New Spaces: Alienation and Stereotypes
  • New Spaces: Hyphenated Identities and Hyphenated Migrants
  • New Spaces: The Struggle for Belonging
  • Consuming Identities, Consuming Guinness, Consuming ‘Home’
  • Consuming Goods: A Potato or a Pint?
  • Consuming Space: The Pub as a Trope for Home
  • Conclusion: A Note of Thanks to Globalisation and the Postcolonial Theme Pub
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index
  • Series Index

· 1 ·



You can drive past a dusty billboard advertising it as you travel through Lagos, sit in an authentic ‘Irish bar’ in an airport in Moscow and have a pint of it, or holiday on a Mediterranean Island and spot a bottle of it in a shop window. Guinness is a globalised product and it is likely that you will encounter either the product itself or an advert for it in most countries.

However, although Guinness is a global product, it still contains references to Ireland and Irishness, and it occupies a particular place in imaginings of Ireland and Irishness. As a result, Guinness is uniquely associated with Irishness in the imagination of Irish people and others worldwide, and it has negotiated the retention of its specific brand identity of Irishness. It anchors Irishness and is recognisable as an intrinsically Irish product despite its actual globalisation.

Ireland’s contested colonial history and its unique position as Britain’s first and last1 ‘colony’ provides a rare space for interrogation in several dimensions, and so this book tells a story about Irish identity, the Irish diaspora, and a marketed and advertised product called Guinness, all three of which coalesce in this complex postcolonial space.2 The entity that results ← 1 | 2 → in this coming together is unique. It is quintessentially national yet global at the same time. It is a direct result of its complex colonial relationship that the Irish diasporic project contains so many moments of movement, dislocation and migration.

Furthermore, although the migration of Irish is no longer linked directly to or a result of its colonial history, there are distinct patterns of colonial and postcolonial influence in the marketing and advertising of Guinness as a product.

The Imperial Archive (2006) suggests that “Ireland has not always been given the same kind of scrutiny or even attention as commonwealth and former commonwealth countries have been afforded” but is a subject area where the accepted models of colonial discourse and postcolonial theory may or may not apply.3 This book situates key questions about Irish identity, consumption, negotiated states of belonging, authenticity, hybridity and gender against the backdrop of a postcolonial space where an iconic Irish product, i.e., Guinness, anchors the entire story.

By employing Johnson’s Circuit of Culture and closely examining its components in regard to Guinness—moments of production (Guinness and its marketing arm), text (Guinness advertising) and audience (Irish consumers)—this book investigates how Irish national identity shapes, and is shaped by, Guinness advertising and consumption. These processes take place in a number of different locations: in the pub and outside it, with consumers and non-Guinness drinkers, and across many different countries and cultures. The book, therefore, explores the place of Guinness in the imaginations and lived experiences of drinkers in Ireland and the Irish diaspora. And by approaching Guinness as an ideological construct, I interrogate the sign in its physical form, its textual form and in its imagined form. I excavate moments and spaces in which the product is significant to those who encounter it in their lived experience.

The book embraces key issues embedded in postcolonial discussions but, most particularly, considers the notions of multiple voices and notions of hybridity and authenticity. For example I located and identified stories of tension between the (self-described ‘authentic’) first-generation Irish migrants in New York and the second and subsequent generations, who also identify themselves as Irish, possessing Irish identity and Irish culture. A second example is located around Irish Catholics and Protestants, and the question of ‘who is really Irish?’ It describes what versions of Irishness are being expressed and identified with, and this emerges as a key question. For example, Crawford (2010) examines the relationship between Protestants and Catholics and the ← 2 | 3 → notion that southern Protestants are somehow not really Irish. By looking at various aspects of everyday life in today’s Republic—education, marriage, segregation, Irish language, social life—Crawford discusses how these residues of religious, ethnic and cultural tension suggest that to be truly Irish is to be Catholic, and consequently Protestants—and other minorities—cannot have an authentic Irish identity.

This work also explores the roles of essentialism and strategic essentialism in the notion of struggle. These become apparent when I describe how the marketing strategies of Guinness have shifted over the decades. For example, until recently, Guinness advertising texts were essentialising Irishness by producing narrow and specific representations of Irishness. However, in recent years, there has been a significant shift in the adverts’ content, suggesting that utilising and interpolating a specific Irish national identity no longer works, and so Guinness marketing is now using images that speak of a global identity. Guinness was one of the first products to be produced strategically in other countries worldwide, and, as such, it was the harbinger of later developments in terms of the globalisation of manufacturing and distribution.


XVIII, 215
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (December)
identity references ethnography political economy
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 205 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Brenda Murphy (Author)

Born in Ireland, Dr Brenda Murphy received her doctorate from Goldsmiths’ College, University of London. She is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Gender Studies at the University of Malta and is a collaborative researcher in EU and International projects.


Title: Brewing Identities