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Ethnicising Ulster’s Protestants: Tolerance, Peoplehood, and Class in Ulster-Scots Ethnopedagogy



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Gardner, Peter Robert 


Toward the end of the Troubles, the notion of an Ulster-Scots ethnicity, culture, and language began to be pursued by certain unionists and loyalists more desirous of ‘something more racy of the soil’ (Dowling 2007:54). Peace-building in Northern Ireland had undergone something of a cultural turn: the armed struggle over constitutional and civil rights questions began in the eighties to be ‘ethnically framed’ (Brubaker 2004:166). With cultural identity politically potent, the conception of an Ulster-Scots ethnic group began to gain traction with a tiny but influential subsection of unionists and loyalists. Since the nineties, this movement has gained considerable ground.

This thesis represents an intersectional investigation of the inclusion of Ulster-Scots education into schools in Northern Ireland. I contend that Ulster-Scots studies represents an ethnicisation of the conception of a discrete Protestant politico-religious “community” within Northern Ireland, holding considerable potential for the deepening of senses of intercommunal differentiation. Rather than presenting the potential for the deconstruction of ideas of difference, such a pedagogy of reifies, perpetuates, (re)constructs and even deepens such ideas of difference by grounding notions of difference in ethno-cultural and genealogical bases.

Ulster-Scots is often described as a means of waging cultural war in post-conflict Northern Ireland (Mac Póilin 1999). Contrariwise, I contend that it represents neither the uncritical, sectarian, loyalist pedagogy of its critics nor the pragmatic and innocuous solution to a problem of durable collective identities of its protagonists. Rather, Ulster-Scots education is embedded in the politics of consociational peace. The logic of consociationalism explicitly entails the maintenance of stark boundaries of ethnic difference. This research does not merely critique of Ulster-Scots pedagogy, but calls into question the whole consociational logic in which it, and the Northern Irish peace process in general, has been embedded.




Miley, Thomas Jeffrey


Conflict, Peacebuilding, Ethnicity, Language politics, Consociational democracy, Northern Ireland, Colonialism, Class, Peoplehood


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
This PhD was funded by a Newton Trust Award through the Cambridge Home and EU Scholarship Scheme (CHESS).