Skip to main content

Deciphering Irish Alcohol and Substance use: Post-war Representations and Accounts


DIASPORA will focus on the Irish in post-war London and New York to provide a nuanced and penetrative investigation of the intersections between alcohol, drug use, mental health, migration and ethnicity. Crucially, it will interrogate the cultural and societal implications of the ubiquitous “drunken Irish” label, the disproportionate rates of alcoholism reported among Irish migrants/diaspora, and the perceived day-to-day roles of recreational drugs, drink and drinking spaces – both positive and negative – in the lived experiences of this cohort. The project will trace the interplay between expert, state, religious and cultural representations, before contrasting findings with first-hand accounts by Irish migrants/diaspora.

By casting alcohol and drugs as prisms through which to view experiences and portrayals of the Irish abroad, the project will expose fault lines in existing historical studies of (i) Irish migration; (ii) migration, health and ethnicity; and (iii) alcohol and drugs, which have eschewed any meaningful examination of this topic. By drawing together these ordinarily distinct strands of historiography, and placing an ethnic stereotype at the centre of its investigation, it will redefine scholarly debates about other ethnic groups, as well as broader discourses on the physical and mental implications of migration and discrimination.

DIASPORA’s overarching aim is to use the longevity of Irish migration to London and New York to enlighten the evolving ethnic and racial experience in Britain and the US. The project will offer a blueprint for future comparative analyses of health, ethnicity and race in historical perspective. To do so, it will blend traditional historical methodologies, including robust archival research on government files and Irish community and service centre records, with oral histories, and analysis of medical, sociology, social work and religious journals, autobiographies, fictional literature, drama, film and documentaries.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 417 818,00
4 Dublin

See on map

Ireland Eastern and Midland Dublin
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Non-EU contribution
€ 0,00