Accounts of Suburban Lives in Dublin


Hervé Varenne

Programs in Anthropology and Education
Teachers College, Columbia University

Through a series of vignettes of everyday life scenes in a Southern suburb of Dublin, a picture is constructed of people who moved there starting in the early 70s. The focus is on the minutiae of everyday life: taking the children to school, vacuuming the house, coffee klatsching, cooking, drinking, praying. These are mostly the concerns of women, and most of the vignettes are written from their point of view. They are also matters the men and children who share houses and cars with them must deal with.

These vignettes demonstrate how the major European and American social movements in which Ireland remains caught--albeit in a peripheral and altogether unique position--, become local matters. The European industrialization that, for example, allowed for the mass production of cars and houses, allowed and encouraged, the settlement of areas further and further removed from urban centers. As Dublin developed, as slums were destroyed, as more people from the country found occupations in the area, the suburbs grew and a particular set of conditions was made for these people to inhabit.

The paper shows how people, as they take their conditions into account, construct many different everyday lives that can be shown to be productive of new local conditions. Thus morning teas, friendship networks, prayer groups, associa- tions, etc., provide both an escape from the mechanical cycle once satirized in France as "Métro, boulot, dodo," and become new conditions for the individual members of a household to take into account.

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