Sarah L. Townsend has been named a 2019-20 Faculty Research Fellow at the Suzy Newhouse Center for the Humanities, Wellesley College. Selected through an open international competition, Townsend will spend the academic year in residence at Wellesley working on a new book titled, What’s New About the New Irish? Race, Whiteness, and Racial Mobility in Ireland and the United States, 1892-2020.
The project draws upon extensive archival research in Ireland and North America in order to expose the hidden history of transnational white supremacy that undergirds multiculturalism in contemporary Ireland. Townsend shows how present-day celebrations of the so-called “new Irish” immigrants in Ireland paradoxically derive from a racial vocabulary developed in the 19th- and early 20th-c. U.S. to support Irish immigrants—who were considered only questionably white on arrival—in securing a firm place in the white majority. By tracing the use of the phrase “new Irish” in historical materials and contemporary writing, the project demonstrates how the legacies of this vocabulary continue to shape how race is understood in Ireland today.
During her residence at Wellesley College, Dr. Townsend will pursue her research and participate actively in the intellectual life of the institution by developing programing, meeting at weekly luncheons and salons, and sharing her work in progress with the Humanities Center and the larger Wellesley community.