Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Steve Coleman
Ó Cadhain’s “living clay” a reexamination.
Annual Meeting, Anthropological Association of Ireland: Eco-cosmology, Sustainability and a Spirit of Resilience
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
This paper investigates Máirtín Ó Cadhain's critique of scholarly appropriations of Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) cultural products. Folklorists' textual practices, grounded in a modernist sense of time, place, and society (in which peripheral locals and their linguistic culture are doubly dislocated), attempted to construct an archival, national past. Ó Cadhain opposed this metaphysics of "empty linear time" (as Walker Benjamin termed it) with an ontological stance in which time is cyclic, determined by the growth and decay of living forms. Ó Cadhain conceived of culture, society and nature in terms of one immanent form, which he termed "clay" (cré). In his view, the Irish State was interested in preserving only the "dead clay" of superannuated cultural forms, while systematically erasing the "living clay," in which language and culture is still inseparable from those who make it, as new life coming into being. Ó Cadhain’s critique marked the midway point of his political journey from anticolonial armed struggle (the IRA), through an indigenous, autonomist politics, (Muintir na Gaeltachta/ Gluaiseacht Cearta Sibhialta na Gaeltachta), and finally, socialism. I propose that Ó Cadhain’s view is of value both to those contemplating a new, worldly, indigenous politics, and to those who seek more just scholarly approaches to researching indigeneity.