2009-2015:  PhD in Philosophy/Sociology from Dublin City University (DCU)

2005-2007:  MA in Political Communications from Dublin City University (DCU)

2002-2005: BA in Media Production and Management from Ballyfermot College (BCFE)

Thesis Title

Resolving Recognitive-Power Dilemmas: The Everyday Experience of Sunni Muslim Individuals in Dublin, Ireland.

Thesis Abstract

In recent years, due to the increased visibility of immigrants and the rise of Islamic terrorism, there has been a dramatic increase in studies that aim to gain a deeper understanding of Muslim populations in the West. In the European context, such empirical studies invariably focus on core nation-states whilst a dearth of research pertains to peripheral countries, such as the Republic of Ireland. In addition, the Irish literature tends to be scant whilst European studies are overly reliant upon communitarian and security paradigms.

To fill the above research gap, this study aims to demonstrate the complexity of recognition relations by examining how Sunni Muslim individuals living in Dublin perceive how they are recognised within various spheres of everyday interaction i.e., within the spheres of love, legal respect and social esteem and how such perceptions of recognition provide a deeper insight into identity formation and maintenance. To conduct such a study, Axel Honneth’s social critical theory of recognition has been utilised to frame a range of grassroot interviews and focused discussion groups. Such a grounded qualitative study, with emancipatory intent, challenges the communitarian assumption that minority groups simply seek to have their “particular” culture and associated beliefs endorsed by a majority and the security paradigm that narrowly views Muslims in Europe through the lens of political extremism.

In terms of research findings, this study highlights the fact that forms of disrespect and misrecognition permeate multiple social spheres to varying degrees with the vast majority of criticisms directed towards the wider societal sphere of interaction. The participant narratives, particularly the use of small stories, verify that misrecognition negatively affects an individual’s relation-to-self leading to a struggle to regain positive forms of recognition, relation-to-self and perceived self-worth.

The study also gains a deep understanding of the complex intertwinement between recognition, power and integration processes. Individuals (and groups) strive to gain recognition from others yet must negotiate the powers that reside within each sphere of interaction. Such powers legitimate and regulate social norms and “normalised” identity standards. This complex interlacing creates a variety of recognitive-power dilemmas that must be resolved by individuals-in-context. In terms of top-down power, the empirical information illustrates how domineering social pathologies exist extensively in terms of public discrimination, patriarchy and exclusionary civic stratification whilst the nation-state’s constitutive power shapes the ‘good citizen’ within the legal arena and traditional authority figures shape the ‘good Muslim’ within the familial and community spheres.

A substantial additional finding is that individual and collective resistive power is identified in the process by which 2nd generation youth are resisting traditional authorities and redirecting their legitimating recognition towards counter-authorities that facilitate greater social flexibility. Such agentic bottom-up power aids an identity transformation in which Muslim youth are returning to a “purified” form of Islam and filtering-out “negative” ethno-cultural traditions in order to gain positive recognition from multiple social spheres of interaction e.g., to strengthen their recognition to God, to enhance and create a common-ground to their Islamic family, friends and community and also to extract deeply-embedded civic principles, from an interpretation of the Islamic sources, in order to gain recognition as active Muslim citizens, who can positively participate within and contribute to Irish society.

Such an identity movement helps Sunni Muslim individuals avoid total assimilation and isolation by enabling the creation of a balanced integration strategy – referred to as integration without dilution. This alternative form of integration helps Muslims interact and participate within the Irish-European context but with the added benefit of being able to maintain and strengthen an Islamic identity. It does so by placing more emphasis on an Islamic-civic identity rather than accentuating interconnections between a religious identity and ethno-cultural and/or nationalistic affinities.

Generally the above findings illustrate how recognition, power and identity intersect within everyday life and also verify that humans are not static entities but remain dynamic – fluid beings – in constant forms of transformation due to the interactive context of everyday life. Such insights are pivotal in proving that although such an identity shift may be construed as “natural” – when viewed through a recognitive lens – it becomes apparent that such transformations are an identity construction, which aim to resolve recognitive-power dilemmas that occur within the immanent context of everyday life.

Selected Publications

  • Delaney, D. and Cavatorta, F. The Exclusion of Denizens within the Irish Social and Political Opportunity Structure: The Cosmopolitan Case of Muslims in the Republic of Ireland. Chapter 8. IN: Sinclair, K. and Egholm-Feldt, J. (eds.). 2011. Lived Space: Reconsidering Transnationalism among Muslim Minorities. Hamburg: Peter Lang.
  • Delaney D. Perceptions of Mis/Recognition: The Experience of Sunni Muslim Individuals in Dublin. IN: Martikainen, T., Mapril, J., and Khan, A. (eds.). 2016. Muslims at the Margins of Europe: Finland, Greece, Ireland, and Portugal. Leiden: Brill.