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Re-Shaping National Culture: Sean-nós Dance in Twenty-First Century Ireland

My International Studies thesis, completed in Fall 2018 at Denison University:

In this paper, I examine the factors that lead to a revival of marginalized practices of national culture in the age of globalization. Previous scholarship suggests that globalization’s dynamism has the ability to affect common methods used to shape national culture, leading to a resurgence of historically marginalized practices. Focusing on sean-nós dance in twenty-first century Ireland, I draw on literature that analyzes forms of Irish dance, while interweaving ethnographic research to demonstrate why the revival of sean-nós dance in the twenty first century occurred. I trace the histories of the two main dance forms in Ireland, step dance, an invented, “traditional” dance form, and sean-nós dance, the “old-style” dance, to reveal that the revival and increasing legitimization of sean-nós dance in Ireland is predicated on the continued globalization and commodification of step dance, in addition to the inclusive performance context and movements of sean-nós dance that have remained embedded in Ireland’s culture. While, in part, this research shows that globalization and the actual movements within marginalized, embodied performances of national culture can contribute to their revival in the twenty-first century, many other contributing social, historical, and economic factors need to be considered.

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