The Irish pub as a third place : a sociological exploration of people, place and identity
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There is considerable interest in alcohol in Irish society, yet minimal sociologcial understanding of its consumption, particularly of the sites where most drinking occurs: the country's 8750 pubs. Despite widespread public discussions on the role of the pub, there is scant social science evidence to better inform debate. Pubs are central to Irish community and are key sites of social interaction. American sociologist Ray Oldenburg has argued that "third places" (neither workplace nor home) are crucial to the maintenance of the community and the enhancement of social capital. According to Oldenburg, the role of the third place in the community is to provide continuity, regularity, a sense of place - all of which conceptually contribute to the construction of the self, the projection of the self within the public sphere, the distribution of social capital and the generation of a collective identity. The pub is the archetypal third place, but Oldenburg is concerned that modern pubs are less able to provide this vital function. Social scientists have suggested that community is in a state of fragmentation and decline due to changes in modes of social interaction and a decrease in shared spaces, resulting in a weakened connection to place. Community without propinquity has been characterised by social alienation, fragmentation and what Oldenburg refers to as the "problem of place" (13). Third places, and thus the Irish pub, have been particularly affected. In order to increase the sociological knowledge of the pub in Ireland, this project critically engages with the pub to assess the importance that public drinking houses have in the everyday. Moreover, this research sets out to investigate the people/place relationship using the pub as an investigative lens and examine the ways in which people shape place, place shapes people and how that relationship is implicated in the construction of irish identities. Furthermore, this is also an articulation of a cultural shift within Ireland and Irish places whose effects are deep and multi-layered. This project aims to explore the development of the contemporary geography of identity as the irish pub as a third place is transformed or disappears from the social landscape.
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