My dissertation contributes a significant rethinking of racial formation in the United States, from a comparative and transnational perspective through a synthesis of seldom-connected theories and theorists. My Introduction explores Carl Schmitt's concepts “sovereign power” and “nomos,” along with Giorgio Agamben's concept of “bare life” in relation to the victims of the Famine, to the nineteenth-century British colonial state. Foucault's concepts of biopower and governmentality in turn provoke reconsideration of the classic works of Omi and Winant, and of David Theo Goldberg, on the racial state. I undertake that task through the work of Nicos Poulantzas, whose seminal concepts of the methodologies of state formation are especially useful to describe the complex struggle between the economic and the political in the nineteenth-century evolution of the US state. Although none of these thinkers ever squarely confronts race, racialization, or colonialism, my synthesis and extension of their work furnish a more nuanced location of the post-Famine Irish in racial formations in the Atlantic world. Chapter 2 undertakes such a theoretical synthesis through the writing of James Joyce.
The oft-remarked rapidity with which the Irish Famine faded from historical and popular memory is usually attributed to the emigration of so many Famine victims and to the Famine's role as an agent of the colonial modernization of Ireland. Yet the hidden afterlife of the Famine may be discerned in Ireland's preeminent literary work, Ulysses. Joyce's concern with the biopolitical management of life and death in what was then a British colony is readily apparent in “Hades” and “Lestrygonians,” chapters seeded with allusions to the Famine and emigration alike. Through close reading of such episodes, Chapter 2 exposes the Famine's wake in the Atlantic world and thus rearticulates the Irish experience in the United States.
Chapter 3 compares Frederick Douglass's liberating 1845 journey from America to Ireland with the opposite transatlantic flight of two Famine-era Irishmen, John Hughes, Archbishop of New York, and John Mitchel, the Irish revolutionary turned proslavery activist. In Ireland on the eve of the Famine, Douglass wrote that for the first time in his life he felt a complete human being. Mitchel, on the other hand, resisted British colonialism yet supported US slavery. The comparison of such transatlantic encounters frames not only racial subject formation but also church/religious power within a distinctly transnational context. My investigation of Hughes reveals how, contrary to received wisdom, Catholic religious imperialism flowed through the national imperialisms of both Britain and the US.
Leaving the black/white binary that preoccupies many scholars of Irish America, Chapter 4 continues west to California, the major “contact zone” between the Irish and Chinese. Here I distinguish citizenship, for which the Irish qualified upon entry into the United States, from nationality, which the Irish had to earn through two principal conduits: the cultural imaginary and state apparatuses. This chapter exposes how US state structures, infused with the ideological imperatives of Manifest Destiny, enabled the Irish in the West to embody ideal American citizenship more quickly than did their counterparts back East. The chapter shows how state political-legal disciplinary apparatuses provided extremely powerful conduits through which the Irish attained ideal American citizenship by denying it to the Chinese.
Citizenship, gender, race, and class constitute the focus of Chapter 5. Through the prism of popular culture – specifically, cartoons and theater – I contrast the feminization of the Chinese man with a peculiarly overlooked phenomenon, the masculinization of the Irish woman. Touching a theme that runs throughout the dissertation, the chapter further traces the acculturation-to-assimilation paths along which second-generation Irish women embraced, and were embraced by, ideal American womanhood.
In Chapter 6 I examine forms of cultural production generally overlooked by American Studies scholars: Irish American literature of the period. First were Famine Irish writers who arrived in the US from 1845 onwards and published until about 1875. Particular attention is given in this chapter to the subgenre addressed specifically to Irish woman servants. In addition, the chapter investigates the dramatic change in emphasis that occurs in the work of certain second-generation Famine Irish American writers. Sons and daughters of Famine Irish who published after 1875 to the turn of the century, these authors fully embraced Catholic American citizenship while simultaneously rejecting militant Irish nationalist ideology.
Embodying a quite different manifestation of the Green Atlantic's possibilities is James Connolly, one of the great unorthodox Marxist theorists of his time. Connolly wrote some of his most important work, including Labour in Irish History, in the United States, where he spent several years as a union organizer before returning to Ireland in time to lead the doomed Easter Rising of 1916. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)