Friday, 15 February 2013

EXTRACTS, President Michael D. Higgins, Reflecting on Irish Migrations

EXTRACTS, President Michael D. Higgins, Reflecting on Irish Migrations

Reflecting on Irish Migrations: Some issues for the Social Sciences

Michael D. Higgins, Uachtarán na hÉireann, President of Ireland at NYU Glucksman Ireland House, Thursday, 3rd May 2012

I am delighted to be in Glucksman Ireland House in New York University, one of the highest ranking academic Irish Studies Centres in the U.S. Those of us who value the importance of Irish Studies and in particular, the importance of its accessibility in the wider Irish Diaspora, owe a deep debt of gratitude to the late Lew Glucksman and Loretta Brennan Glucksman. I am especially, pleased that Loretta is with us today...

... I am very much a supporter of the view put forward by Patrick O’Sullivan that Irish migration studies has to be an interdisciplinary exercise and I applaud his every efforts to give meaning to this through his six volume edited series – The Irish World Wide History, Heritage, Identity which of course has been succeeded by further scholarship and this had led to revisions which he has acknowledged. Nevertheless, his views on how the Irish migrations might best be studied were important and his delivery on these with the six volumes in the 1990s was a real contribution.

The rewards of a multi-disciplinary approach to Irish migration are, I repeat, rich. Yet as Patrick O’Sullivan has pointed out this has been difficult to achieve. His paper Developing Irish Diaspora Studies: A Personal View in New Hibernian Review in 2003 spelled that out:

“No one academic discipline is going to tell us everything we want to know about the Irish Diaspora. The study of migration, emigration, immigration, population movements, flight scattering, networks, transnational communities, diaspora – this study demands an interdisciplinary approach.”

Patrick O’Sullivan made his significant contribution at a time when migration theory and migration studies were being contracted back to individual disciplines or allowed an eclectic existence within what was regarded as core subjects which, it was often asserted by their leading practitioners did not need the discomfort, or the challenge of interdisciplinarity.

... I believe that an inclusive scholarship would have benefitted from such an interdisciplinary approach that while reflecting a respect for the different tools of analysis in different disciplines at the same time was able to draw on the benefit of transcending boundaries. This argument has been well made by Patrick O’Sullivan in his state of the field article on Irish Diaspora Studies to which I earlier referred.

It may be that what has to be overcome by scholars is the fear that by a particular approach to migration we are seeking to colonise it at the expense of other approaches, or that by failures to regard such a study of migration all the more valuable because, as Edward Said would put it, it exists in the interstices, we allow it to be relegated to an exotic or eclectic existence as an afterthought in a department that travels under a different and more grandiose title. Patrick O’Sullivan is very complimentary to the scholarship of NYU Glucksman Ireland House as exceptional in avoiding such pitfalls...

...Patrick O’Sullivan noted in the general introduction to his series the fact that Everett S. Lee’s theory of migration had had little influence on Irish migration studies. I agree with Patrick O’Sullivan that the general scheme in Lee’s work might have enabled us to conceptualise Irish migration within a larger and more general framework of migrant theory. I was aware of this in Manchester and felt it was a quite valuable approach in correcting some of the over-determined features of the Push-Pull model.


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