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The Emergence of an Ethnic Group: The Irish Tinkers

来源:本站 | 作者: 中山大学移民与族群研究中心  | 时间:2018-04-17

Author(s): Sharon Bohn Gmelch and George Gmelch

Source: Anthropological Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Oct., 1976), pp. 225-238

Published by: The George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3316736

 

This paper traces the emergence of an ethnic group from within a culturally homogenous population. It first describes the economic and social forces within Irish society which led to the growth of an itinerant population, known as the "Travelling People, " "Travellers" or "Tinkers. " During various periods in Irish history, sedentary Irish have been forced to adopt a nomadic existence. Many craftsmen became itinerant when the demand for their services was not great enough in one area to permit them to remain settled. Peasants and laborers were also forced to become itinerant as the result of widespread evictions, unemployment and famine. And occasionally individuals, who because of problems such as alcoholism or illegitimacy were stigmatized by settled society, sought refuge on "the road." Secondly, this paper examines the process by which itinerant Irish developed a common ethnic identity as Tinkers. At first their identity was based only on their shared nomadic lifestyle. But gradually it was strengthened through their growing physical and social isolation from settled Irish society, and simultaneously through their increased contact, intermarriage and identification with other itinerants.

 

Ethnic identities which distinguish members of one group from the rest of society are generally based on differences in skin color, language, religion, national origin, or a combination of these factors. Occasion- ally, however, distinct ethnic groups emerge from within culturally homogenous populations. Numerous itinerant populations in Western Europe such as the Swedish Tattare, Norwegian Tatere, Finnish Zigenare, Dutch Reiziger, and Scottish Travellers represent ethnic groups which are both indigenous to their country of residence and identical to its people in terms of color, language and religion.