”Ortha an Ghreama“ as a Lesser-known Irish Traveller Narrative: Symbolic Inversion and Resistance
Irish folk tradition includes a long-established discourse whereby the formerly nomadic or semi-nomadic group known as Irish Travellers, who comprise a tiny minority within Irish society are depicted not only as quintessential “outsiders” but also as a projective mechanism for the hates and fears of the settled (non-Traveller) community. This essay examines a counter-tradition in Irish oral tradition that rejects these essentialist and reductionist representations and constructs Travellers very differently. This alternative portayal sets Travellers within a very different discourse, one where they serve as a counter-hegemonic undercurrent in Irish society that remains symbolically central despite attempts at its suppression. This more radical and nuanced discourse, one whereby that which is initially deemed lowly or subordinate is inverted and becomes paramount, is circumscribed within the traditions of symbolic inversion and holy wisdom as long-established in other European countries. This counter-hegemonic discourse is linked to a discussion concerning the philosophical possibilities for a movement beyond the politics of difference that is constitutive of Traveller Otherness or alterity and the potential for a more nuanced or postmodernist theorisation of Self/Other relations.