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Polish-Irish Encounters in the Old and New Europe


Edited By Sabine Egger and John McDonagh

The cultural, political, social and economic interaction between Ireland and Poland has a long and complex history. This volume hopes to contribute to an emerging debate around the issues concerned by looking at alternative frameworks for understanding the relationship between the two countries. While the topic has attracted growing interest among researchers from various disciplines in recent years, this is the first book dedicated to exploring this cultural relationship in the context of Polish migration to Ireland. The essays in this collection tease out significant strands that connect the two countries, including literature, visual media, education, politics and history. Examining Polish-Irish relations in their wider historical and cultural context allows for new definitions of Irish, Polish and European identities in the New Europe. Especially important in view of the challenges and opportunities that a multicultural Ireland faces after the hard landing of the Celtic Tiger, this book provides new perspectives on a substantial and vibrant cross-cultural relationship.


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Part I Strands and Connections in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century History 1


Part I Strands and Connections in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century History John Belchem Patterns of Mobility: Irish and Polish Migration in Comparative Historical Perspective Given the extent and pace of recent developments, it is appropriate to con- sider how the concepts, methods and models which informed the Bochum conference of October 1999 on Irish and Polish migration in comparative perspective have withstood the test of time1 – not least, the subsequent explosion of diaspora studies and the assertion of a completely ‘new face’ of East–West ‘shuttle’ or ‘commuter’ migration following recent enlarge- ment of the European Union in 2004 and 2007. It has yet to be seen how the onset of recession (and the demise of the Celtic tiger) will af fect such mobility f lows. Studied in isolation, migrant groups tend to remain ‘apart’, portrayed by historians either as ‘others’ or as ‘exceptional’. The purpose of the con- ference in Bochum was to interrogate such judgements, to move beyond particularistic (often self-referential and celebratory) narratives of the transformation and adjustment from ‘immigrant’ to ‘ethnic’. To facilitate comparative analysis (in what Nancy Green has described as linear, con- vergent and divergent form), two European groups were chosen – one from the West, one from the East – who (helpfully) seemed to display a number of surface similarities.2 Situated on opposite peripheries of indus- 1 John Belchem and Klaus Tenfelde (eds), Irish and Polish Migration in Comparative Perspective (Essen: Klartext, 2003). 2 Nancy L. Green, ‘The comparative method and poststructural structuralism: new perspectives for...

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