Date of Award

Summer 2017

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)





Committee Chair

Westley Follett

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Bridget Hayden

Committee Member 2 Department

Anthropology and Sociology

Committee Member 3

Courtney Luckhardt

Committee Member 3 Department


Committee Member 4

Marie Danforth

Committee Member 4 Department

Anthropology and Sociology


Ethnogenesis, or the process of identity construction occurred in medieval Ireland as a reaction to laws passed by the first centralized government on the island. This thesis tracks ethnogenesis through documents relating to change in language, custom, and law. This argument provides insight into how a new political identity was rendered necessary by the Anglo-Irish. Victor Turner’s model of Communitas structures the argument as each stage of liminality represents a turning point in the process of ethnogenesis.

1169 marked a watershed moment as it began the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. English nobles brought with them ideas of centralized power. In an effort to control his magnates living abroad, Henry II, King of England, instituted an aggressive government. Unlike the earlier Viking age, English government began the systemic criminalization of the Irish political identity by banning the Irish language, intermarriage, and other customary practices. This period exemplifies Anthony Wallace’s “revitalization movement” as the English Crown destroyed the existing political system. Communitas and the revitalization movement provide the “how” to an argument of ethnogenesis in medieval Ireland. This thesis blends anthropology and history in order to examine the process of political identity construction holistically.