Neighborhood and Politics: Irish Ethnicity in Nineteenth Century Lowell, Massachusetts

Sallie A. Marston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


In recent years social theorists have begun to assert the important influence of space on social ideas and practices. This paper examines some of these assertions about space and society through a case study. In addressing the theoretical importance of space to American political practices, this study draws attention to how spatial form and content contributed to the development of political consciousness among nineteenth century Irish in Lowell, Massachusetts. After establishng the existence of spatially discrete Irish neighborhoods, I examine the importance of Irish voluntary associations to ethnic solidarity and the ethnic negotiation of the wider, non-Irish society in Lowell. The case study shows that the institutions of Irish ethnicity as fostered and maintained in the Irish neighborhoods were a significant influence on the actual strategies the Irish developed to wage their political struggles. Finally, I argue that political behavior is geographically rooted and the social context of the ethnic neighborhood was crucial in defining the approach used by the Irish to challenge the contradictions of industrial capitalism as they occurred in Lowell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-432
Number of pages19
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1988


  • American exceptionalism
  • ethnicity
  • industrialization
  • place
  • political development and consciousness
  • space
  • urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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