Contours of colonialism: Gaelic Ireland and the early colonial subject
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Morrissey J. (2004) 'Contours of colonialism: Gaelic Ireland and the early colonial subject', Irish Geography, 37(1): 88-102
The sixteenth century is critical to our reading of Ireland's subsequent colonial and indeed postcolonial geographies, yet has frequently evaded considered scrutiny for a variety of reasons, including the deficiencies of the evidence. Eschewing assumptions of colonialism as a 'given' and informed by postcolonial perspectives in geography and related disciplines, this paper interrogates the initial contours of English colonial endeavours in one region of Ireland from the beginnings of renewed Crown interest in the mid-sixteenth century. Using the example of the O¿Dwyer family of Kilnamanagh in County Tipperary, the paper explores the interconnections as well as the conflicts of the worlds of the colonial 'newcomers' and Gaelic 'natives', and demonstrates how colonial discourses of civility, reform and the barbarous 'Other' were transcended on the ground by a complex set of locally dependent variables. Support is offered for the notion that expediency and survival were the fundamental imperatives of both the New English administration and Gaelic responses, and, by highlighting the absence of any consistent colonial relations, the discussion points to the contradictory and mutually constitutive nature of English and Gaelic worlds, co-existing by the end of the sixteenth century.