Between respectability and disgrace: schismogenesis and the regeneration of inequality, stigma and social exclusion in Limerick

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Byrne, Lorcan
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University College Cork
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The thesis examines cultural processes underpinning the emergence, institutionalisation and reproduction of class boundaries in Limerick city. The research aims to bring a new understanding to the contemporary context of the city’s urban regeneration programme. Acknowledging and recognising other contemporary studies of division and exclusion, the thesis creates a distinctive approach which focuses on uncovering the cultural roots of inequality, educational disadvantage, stigma and social exclusion and the dynamics of their social reproduction. Using Bateson’s concept of schismogenesis (1953), the thesis looks to the persistent, but fragmented culture of community and develops a heuristic ‘symbolic order of the city’. This is defined as “…a cultural structure, the meaning making aspect of hierarchy, the categorical structures of world understanding, the way Limerick people understand themselves, their local and larger world” (p. 37). This provides a very different departure point for exploring the basis for urban regeneration in Limerick (and everywhere). The central argument is that if we want to understand the present (multiple) crises in Limerick we need to understand the historical, anthropological and recursive processes underpinning ‘generalised patterns of rivalry and conflict’. In addition to exploring the historical roots of status and stigma in Limerick, the thesis explores the mythopoesis of persistent, recurrent narratives and labels that mark the boundaries of the city’s identities. The thesis examines the cultural and social function of ‘slagging’ as a vernacular and highly particularised form of ironic, ritualised and, often, ‘cruel’ medium of communication (often exclusion). This is combined with an etymology of the vocabulary of Limerick slang and its mythological base. By tracing the origins of many normalised patterns of Limerick speech ‘sayings’, which have long since forgotten their roots, the thesis demonstrates how they perform a significant contemporary function in maintaining and reinforcing symbolic mechanisms of inclusion/exclusion. The thesis combines historical and archival data with biographical interviews, ethnographic data married to a deep historical hermeneutic analysis of this political community.
Inequality , Stigma , Sociology , Limerick , Urban regeneration , Social exclusion , Housing policy , Schismogenesis , Political anthropology
Byrne, L. 2014. Between respectability and disgrace: schismogenesis and the regeneration of inequality, stigma and social exclusion in Limerick. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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