Professor Thomas M. Wilson (Binghamton), ‘Political Ethnography and Political Culture: Ongoing Research in County Meath’
An extremely wide range of forces both internal to Ireland and from abroad have converged over the last thirty years to alter the fundamental bases of culture and politics throughout the Republic of Ireland. Based on ongoing ethnographic research on local politics and government in County Meath, a project begun in the 1970s, this talk explores the changing dimensions of political ethnography in anthropology with reference to local and regional political culture in the counties around Dublin. It also will consider the relevance of the concept of political culture for anthropologists, through an examination of how the political culture of Ireland, known fifty years ago for its post-colonial structures and ethos, and the influences of nationalism, Catholicism, localism, and patronage and clientelism, has been transformed, but not entirely. It will offer tentative conclusions on the impact of demographic shifts, globalization, Europeanization, secularization, and suburbanization on issues related to ethnic diversity, gender, class, and localism in Meath local government and politics. This case will also be used to consider the methodological and theoretical difficulties and opportunities in conducting ethnographic research among a political class and elite where ‘studying up’ is no longer valid and ‘studying with’ is insufficient.
Thomas M. Wilson, a co-founder of the Centre for International Borders Research at Queens University in the 1990s, is Professor of Anthropology in Binghamton University of the State University of New York. A past president of the Society for the Anthropology of Europe, in 2022 he is a Fulbright Research Professor in Maynooth University, Republic of Ireland and a Visiting Research Fellow in the School of History, Anthropology, Politics and Philosophy in Queens University, Belfast, UK. He has conducted ethnographic field research in Ireland, the UK, Hungary, Canada, and the United States. He is the author of Borders, Boundaries and Frontiers: Anthropological Insights (University of Toronto Press, 2023), editor of the encyclopaedia European Society and Culture (Bloomsbury, 2023), co-author, with another CIBR founder, Hastings Donnan, of The Anthropology of Ireland (Berg/Routledge, 2020 ) and Borders: Frontiers of Identity, Nation and State (Berg/Routledge, 2020 ), and co-editor of the Companion to Border Studies (Blackwell, 2012).