“Drink until you’re Irish”: tradition and cultural appropriation at the University of Illinois

I spoke today at the Crisis, Migration, and Performance symposium taking place at NUIG. It was a great opportunity to engage with scholars coming to these issues from a different perspective (performance studies and allied areas), and it made for a vibrant and useful encounter.

My presentation was centred around my experiences at the University of Illinois, where the struggle around ‘Chief Illiniwek’ (the problematic athletics mascot) and the the annual ‘Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day’ became entangled, both in terms of iconography and in how they demonstrated problematic cultural appropriation.

GEO Unofficial policyMany of my friends and colleagues will have been familiar with my own one-person campaign against Unofficial, and in this work I both reflect on that and seek to problematise some of the issues that arise, such as cultural authenticity/essentialism; the differing priorities and strategies of various institutional players (University of Illinois, Irish tourism and business interests, global drinks companies, Urbana-Champaign bar owners, etc.); intersectionality of privilege ethnic identity; my own attitude and position in the debate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *