Books by Mary Burke

“Tinkers”: Synge and the Cultural History of the Irish Traveller cover

“Tinkers”: Synge and the Cultural History of the Irish Traveller (Oxford University Press, 2009). By the Irish Cultural Revival, the tinker represented bohemian, pre-Celtic aboriginality, a cultural nationalist counter to the Victorian Gypsy mania. Misunderstood as a portrayal of actual Travellers, J.M. Synge's The Tinker's Wedding was pivotal to this "Irishing" of the tinker, even as it acknowledged that figure's cosmopolitan textual roots in early modern European "rogue literature." Synge's empathetic depiction is examined, as are the many subsequent representations that looked to him as a model to subvert or emulate. By contrast, post-independence (post-1920s) cultural productions portrayed tinkers as alien interlopers, while contemporaneous Unionists labelled them a contaminant from the hostile South. However, after Travellers politicized in the 1960s, more even-handed depictions queried the "tinker" fantasy, shaping contemporary screen and literary representations of Travellers and prompting Traveller creatives to transubstantiate Otherness into the empowering rhetoric of ethnic difference. Though its Irish equivalent has oscillated between idealization and demonization, US racial history facilitates the cinematic figuring of the Irish-American traveler as lovable "white trash" rogue.

Traveller Jamie Johnson

Mary M. Burke, “Unfettered: Irish Traveller Children.” Forward to photographer Jamie Johnson’s Growing Up Travelling. Kehrer Verlag Art & Photography, Heidelberg, Germany. September 2020.

(Excerpt) “Empathetic visual representations of the Irish Traveller ethnic minority community emerged with the work of Irish-born American photographer Alen MacWeeney in the 1960s. In light of Traveller girls’ obsession with self-presentation, captured so sensitively by Johnson, it is notable that MacWeeney made his name as a fashion photographer. Johnson builds upon such precedents to gift us with her insight into Traveller children’s lives in the twenty-first century.”