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Brewing Identities

Globalisation, Guinness and the Production of Irishness

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Brenda Murphy

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.
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Chapter 1. Why Guinness?

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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.

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