Research Title: Travellers, Culture and Identity
The focus of my research is to investigate Traveller culture and identity within the context of a rapidly changing society.
My research project examines the ways in which identity is constructed, performed and practiced within the Travelling Community. Central to the understanding of identity performance and practice is an investigation of the relationship between people and place and the ways in which different places influence the ways in which identities are practiced. Moreover, the advent of a host of new media technologies has enabled society to understand space and distance in new ways. The creation of virtual space as a way in which identities can be practised and performed has allowed identities to be articulated through new modes, such as the internet (Turkle, 1995), therefore, consideration will be given to how Travellers perform their identity within virtual spaces.
Throughout the course of my research I consider the impact of ‘place’ on the construction, performance and practice of identities. Within the vast array of identity research and theory there exists the suggestion of identities in flux (Bauman, 2004) and multiple identities whereby we each construct an image of ourselves as an “inner cast of characters” (Larsen, 1990) with which we experiment and juggle. Furthermore, Burford (2012) has proposed the notion that the differing selves that exist within each person might best be understood as nested within one another rather like a set of Russian Matryoshka dolls or even hierarchical, changing at any give time depending on the situation, and therefore the place, one finds oneself in.
Bhreatnach (2006), highlighting the advent of the ‘politicisation of space’ and the ‘tailoring of place for public consumption’ notes how the impact of this intervention has severely limited the manner in which Travellers are able to practice their lifestyle and therefore, I would argue, their identity. Consideration is given to the ways in which Travellers’ constructs of space differ from sedentary constructs (Buckler, 2007). Levinson (2005) highlights how Travellers talk about going “off site” (p. 150). Building on Kendall’s (2005) understanding of ‘marginal space’ as a site of resistance (hooks 1991) an investigation is being conducted of both physical and imagined spaces of resistance along with the role that new technologies play in supporting articulation and performances of identity.
Massey (2005) presents the concept of the social experience of place and the idea of place as an event. Pink (2011, p. 349), building on the ideas of Massey (2005) and Casey (1996) has argued for consideration of “Places as intensities of activity and presence as experienced by embodied human subjects, from specific subjectivities.” Places then are created by embodiment of the landscape. Visiting specific places within the landscape provides opportunities to remember and perform identities – an example could involve visiting old stopping places along traditional travelling routes with Traveller research participants. Nora (1989) proposed the term ‘sites of memory’ wherein a collective identity is crystallized or ‘secreted’ and accessing sites of memory provides opportunities for identity affirmation. Furthermore, Machin and Carrithers (1996) propose the idea of cultural landmarks around which people orient themselves – an example could include opportunities to visit Travellers’ ancestors’ graves at traditional family plots with research participants.
Building on the idea of mobile identities, Drakakis-Smith (2007) has suggested that fairs function as a means of reaffirming mobile identities within the Traveller and Gypsy communities whereby collective remembrances are performed and histories are recreated by means of storytelling, singing and performances – an example may involve visiting Ballinasloe Horsefair with research participants. Within the Irish context Bhreatnach (2006) has acknowledged the vital role that fairs played in the negotiation of social identities between Traveller and sedentary communities. Fairs not only provided important opportunities for the performance of showmanship, but also, through interactions with animals, for displays of horsemanship. Pink (2011) has highlighted the importance of ‘hybridities of performances between humans and animals’. Stewart (1997) writing of the Hungarian Rom notes the way in which Hungarian Gypsies handled horses like ‘religious fetishes’ (p. 148) distinguishing between Gypsy horses and settled horses. I argue that an examination of hybrid performances, which are enacted between Traveller and sedentary, animal and human within an Irish context, particularly when viewed through different gendered and generational lenses, provides an opportunity to articulate specific identities, which is important and requires further exploration.
Consideration will also be given to performance space. As space becomes politicised and curtailed, traditional opportunities for places of performance decrease or are perhaps relocated to another realm of new places and spaces of performance through contact with ‘imagined communities’ (Andersen 1994) in and through the use of new media (Durrant, Frohlich, Sellen, and Uzzell, 2011; Livingstone 2008) such as facebook, You Tube and blogging. In addition, the impact of new affordable digital media devices has provided opportunities for both individuals and communities to document, practice and perform identities within a virtual scape (Appadurai, 1996) which Wellman (2004) refers to as ‘networked individualism’ wherein community is no longer attached to a particular ‘place’ but rather operates between people.
Furthermore, the explosion of affordable and visual media devices enables a whole group of users who were previously denied access through either prohibitive costs or limited literacy skills. With these new, affordable and portable media devices being introduced into the home, understandings of public and private spheres may be being reimagined as the boundaries between work and home, public and private are becoming more fluid. Junestrand, Keijer and Tollmar (2001, p. 3) have noted:
Now, with the transition to an information society, it seems as if the concept of public space in the private dwelling has to be reconsidered (June strand & Tollmar 1998), which means that the borders between the private and the public at home are opened up. (Graham & Marvin 1996)
This statement is even more interesting when considering closed societies that traditionally followed clearly defined gendered roles such as exist within the Travelling Community. I would argue that access to, and understanding how to use such devices provides a platform for previously unheard voices.
Central Research Questions
The questions that this particular research seeks to investigate are:
- How do Travellers understand, experience, perform and practice their identity within the context of a rapidly changing society?
- How is Traveller identity expressed within different spheres such as domestic and public?
- How are identities within the Traveller Community formed, performed and reconstructed throughout the lifecycle in childhood, youth and adulthood?
Primary research discipline(s)
Travellers, Identity, Place, Education, Practioner-based Research
Peer reviewed journal publications
Cavaliero, T. (2011) ‘Travellers’ Experiences of Education in County Sligo’ Research West Review vol. 1, no.2
Cavaliero, T. and McGinley, M. (2012) ‘Travellers in Ireland and Issues of Social Care’ in Lalor, K. and Share, P. (eds) Social Care in Ireland: Theory, Policy and Practice 2nd edition forthcoming
Cavaliero, T. (2013) ‘How Was Your Day?’: Supporting Travellers at Primary Level ‘in McTaggart, B. and Share, P. (eds.) Our Children-Our Future Conference Proceedings. Big Fish Press
Cavaliero, T. (2012) R.E.C.A.L.L – Exploring The History of The Traveller Settled Relationship in County Sligo in White, K. and Costello, J. (eds) The Imaginary of the Stranger: Encountering the Other. Port Na Fáilte< Donegal County Council
Peer reviewed conference presentations
Cavaliero, T. and Dr. Mark Taylor (2013) “How Do Young People Want To Be Treated By Social Professionals? Evidence From Case Studies’ at Social Care Ireland Conference: Change, Challenge, Opportunity. Limerick.
Cavaliero, T. (2012) Traveller Youth and the Performance of Identity at the 2nd International Youth Conference NUI Maynooth
Cavaliero, T. (2011) Creatively Engaging with the Travelling Community in County Sligo at “Bringing Back Innovation and Creativity to Social Care Work’ themed Social Care Ireland Conference
Cavaliero, T. (2011) R.E.C.A.L.L – Exploring The History of The Traveller Settled Relationship in County Sligo at The Imaginary of the Stranger Conference, Letterkenny I.T
Cavaliero, T. (2011) ‘Exploring the History of Traveller-Settled Relation Over the last 100 Years’ at “Insights into our Folklore and Oral Heritage” Tuam Oral History and Folklore Society Seminar
Cavaliero, T. (2011) ‘How Was Your Day?’: Supporting Travellers at Primary Level at Our Children-Our Futures Conference, Sligo I.T.
Cavaliero, T. (2011) ‘Travellers Experiences’ of Education in County Sligo’ at S.A.I Postgrad Conference
Cavaliero, T. (2011) ‘Are You Country People to Me?: Exploring Identity with Travellers at School’ at S.A.I. Postgrad conference, Sligo I.T
Share, P., Cavaliero, T. and Taylor, M. (2011) ‘Practitioner-based Research: Involving Students, Learners, Researchers and Practitioners in Enhancing Practice in Social Professions’ at Research Showcase, Sligo Institute of Technology
Other conference presentations
Cavaliero, T. (2008) Presentation on ‘Travellers and Working Through the Arts’ at the Travellers and Working Through the Arts Conference Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Cavaliero, T. Sligo (2011) ‘Creatively Engaging with the Travelling Community’ at Sligo IT Research Showcase Paper
North West Regional Drugs Task Force
Katherine Howard Foundation
Current or future planned funding applications
Graduated postgraduate students
Current postgraduate students
Dr. Perry Share and Dr. Mark Taylor
Cavaliero, T., May, J. and Dolan, S. (2010) R.E.C.A.L.L (Reflecting Each Community at Local Level) DVD Sligo: Loch Bo Films
O’Connor, D., Cavaliero, T & McGloin, L. (2003) Parenting – An Information Pack, Sligo County Childcare Committee, Sligo
O’Connor, D., Cavaliero, T & McGloin, L. (2002) Managing a Childcare Business– An Information Pack, Sligo County Childcare Committee, Sligo
O’Connor, D., Cavaliero, T & McGloin, L. (2002) Managing a Community Childcare Service – An Information Pack, Sligo County Childcare Committee, Sligo
 Taking the lead from Kenny (1994) I use the term ‘sedentary’ when referring to the settled community, as “ ‘settled’ has moral connotations – we settle down, settle up, even the Traveller child who is happy in school has settled in. Sedentary has no overtones” (p. 180).