Prestigious European Research Award for Dr Alice Mauger for her project Deciphering Irish Alcohol and Substance use: Post-war Representations and Accounts’ (DIASPORA)

Dr Alice Mauger has won a Starting Grant from the European Research Council. These grants are, in the words of European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, ‘a flagship for excellent and curiosity-driven science under the Horizon Europe programme’. They help ambitious younger researchers launch their own projects, form their teams and pursue their best ideas.

Alice’s project, DIASPORA, will focus on the Irish in post-war London and New York to provide a nuanced investigation of the intersections between alcohol, drug use, mental health, migration and ethnicity. It will interrogate the cultural and societal implications of the ubiquitous ‘drunken Irish’ label, the disproportionate rates of alcoholism reported among Irish migrants, 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. 

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: (1) Irish migration; (2) migration, health and ethnicity; and (3) 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, the project 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 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.

Dr Alice Mauger said: "I am exceptionally grateful and delighted to receive this ERC Starting Grant. This funding will enable me to lead a team of talented researchers from the fields of alcohol and drugs history and the history of medicine, welfare and mental health to conduct ground-breaking research into the experiences and representations of the Irish using the lens of alcohol and drug use. 

“Together, the team will explore how portrayals of the Irish as heavy drinkers, often prone to alcoholism and in some cases drug abuse, has impacted on their lived experiences in post-war London and New York. In particular, we will interrogate why the ‘drunken Irish’ stereotype has remained so prevalent since the Second World War and how it has evolved. In doing so, the project hopes to provide us with a new way of understanding ethnic and racial inequalities and prejudices at a time when these issues are becoming urgent both within and beyond historical scholarship." 

Professor William Mulligan, Head of UCD School of History, said: "Alice’s exciting new project, DIASPORA, interrogates long-standing stereotypes and poses significant questions about the complex relationship between migration, ethnic identities, and alcohol and drug use amongst Irish people living in London and New York. Her work enhances the School’s strengths in the history of medicine, Irish history, and migration.”

For more details, please see:

UCD Arts and Humanities scholars awarded ERC Starting Grants | UCD Research