1st Edition

Famine Irish and the American Racial State

By Peter D. O'Neill Copyright 2017
    280 Pages 1 Color & 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    294 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Accounts of Irish racialization in the United States have tended to stress Irish difference. Famine Irish and the American Racial State takes a different stance. This interdisciplinary, transnational work uses an array of cultural artifacts, including novels, plays, songs, cartoons, government reports, laws, sermons, memoirs, and how-to manuals, to make its case. It challenges the claim that the Irish "became white" in the United States, showing that the claim fails to take into full account the legal position of the Irish in the nineteenth-century US state – a state that deemed the Irish "white" upon arrival. The Irish thus not only fitted into the US racial state; they helped to form it. Till now, little heed has been paid to the state’s role in the Americanization of the Irish or to the Irish role in the development of US state institutions. Distinguishing American citizenship from American nationality, this volume journeys to California to analyze the means by which the Irish gained acceptance in both categories, at the expense of the Chinese. Along the way, it contests ideas that have taken hold within American studies. One is the notion that the Roman Catholic Church operated outside of the power structure of the nineteenth-century United States. On the contrary, Famine Irish and the American Racial State argues, the Irish-led corporate Catholic Church became deeply imbricated in US state structures. Its final chapter discusses a radical, transnational, Irish tradition that offers a glimpse at a postnational future.

    Introduction: Famine Irish and the American Racial State

    1. Black and Green Atlantic Crossings in the Famine Era

    2. Irish Catholic Empire-Building in America

    3. The Writin’ Irish; or, Catholic Irish America’s Famine-Era Authors

    4. A Code for the True American Catholic Man or Woman

    5. Gender Laundering Irish Women and Chinese Men in San Francisco

    6. In California, Workers Divided

    7. An Irish Worker’s Postnational Horizon



    Peter D. O’Neill is Assistant Professor in the Comparative Literature Department at the University of Georgia.

    "O’Neill has produced an incisive work, well researched and theoretically informed. This is a book that raises important questions about the nature of Irish migration to, and assimilation in, the American racial state."

    – Aidan Beatty, Wayne State University

    "...a valuable contribution to the fields of Irish and American studies. It addresses important issues and offers new insights. Moreover, it is impressive in its scope: O’Neill discusses a wide variety of primary sources, including newspaper articles, illustrations, legislative texts, plays, poetry and literature. Each chapter is supported by a substantial amount of references and an ample bibliography and O’Neill succeeds in tying all these sources together in a coherent and astute manner."

    – Lindsay Janssen, English Studies

    "Famine Irish and the American Racial State is an imaginative and timely study of Irish assimilation in the United States in the ninteenth and early twentieth centuries."

    - Christopher Cusack, HAN Univeristy of Applied Sciences