IRISH DIASPORA AND SPORTING CULTURES OF CONFLICT, STABILITY, AND UNITY: Analysing the Power Politics of Community Development, Resistance, and Disempowerment through a Case Study Comparison of Benny Lynch and The Glasgow Effect'
Introduction: Defining Anti-discriminatory, Culturally Sensitive, Socially Just, Strength Based and Inclusive Community Development
Early writing in the USA on community development concerning the urban renewal of the 1950s and 1960s tended to focus on analysing the utility of local projects such as housing associations and non-profit-based community organisations in a manner that underplayed the political and cultural context of our work. It is argued that as the discipline emerged it became associated with tight and somewhat limited notions of social economic development-led community development to become associated with public administration, public policy or urban planning degrees. It has been suggested that this meant that though the ethos of community development suggested it was for all people, in practice community and economic developers could broadly be classified into two basic groups: paid professionals and volunteers. It is further argued that within the profession of community development there were two types of professionals: specialist community workers, e.g. in health/housing, and, professionals in local services with knowledge of community capacity building.
Community development research defines capacity building as processes that seek to: change the local environment (e.g. poverty, crime, housing, etc.); strengthen local organisations (e.g. through training, resource, policy or practice development); foster local relationships, networks and social organisation (e.g. that provide informal support, group cohesion activities and bridging alliances); and enable systemic approaches that seek to connect local leadership, services and frameworks.
Often community development is discussed in academic circles as if it is in some way divorced from power politics. Yet, the political context of such work has never been far away from our lived realities. For example, in the USA in the 1970s there was a shift to ‘conflict-based’ ways of perceiving community support as necessary to self-emancipate and liberate ourselves from oppression. Yet, by the 1980s and 1990s such perspectives were seen as reasons to cut funding to community organisations (Emejulu, 2015) as ‘assets-based’ practice emerged from a discourse that suggested there was a disappearance of a locally identifiable and accountable ‘enemy’ and therefore community capacity building needed to focus on: identifying the assets and weaknesses of local services; producing the resources necessary for a capitalist economy; training for relationships; stimulating consensus-based partnership initiatives and uniting public, private and community-based actors. Similar ideas were imposed on the ex-mining areas Scotland and the UK that had experienced tremendous upheaval during the 1980s miners’ strike (Emejulu, 2015), in the sense that communities were blamed for: ‘pointless radicalism’; lacking the nous to develop appropriate local assets that would stand the test of time; or, even, for fostering their own self-distraction by ‘wilfully’ attempting to block the tide of time that ushered in a new cuts-based economic model.
The shift from advocating ‘conflict’ based to promoting ‘asset’ based working in the 1980s and 1990s in the USA resulted in ‘successful’ communities becoming defined as those who sought to engage with new economic models and unsuccessful communities who were defined as having a fatalistic attitude towards change. Hence, writing on community development has always involved a tension between models that presume a deficit concerning specific communities and models that assume people’s ability to self-organise can be hindered by socio-political barriers that communities encounter on a day to day basis (MacLeod and Akwugo, 2014).
In recent times then, community development in Scotland and the USA has been hijacked by the ideas that it should be about: ‘cultivating leaders of job creation’; ‘enabling strategic planning for prosperity (no matter how poorly paid the jobs)’; and that community initiatives should ‘surf the whims’ of national, regional and local economic interests. Such thinking has been criticised for continually asking communities to survive and prosper by reinventing themselves through processes of: internal examination, community asset assessment, self-identification of weaknesses, deficit model thinking, SWOT analysis and planning for global sustainability (MacLeod and Akwugo, 2014).
It has been argued that such broad definitions are a far cry from the 1950s’ birthing ideas of community development, which sought to enable a fixed set of goals, processes and outcomes to be defined, developed and achieved within local social and geographical contexts. Though there are great similarities between this process in the USA and Scotland there are also differences in terms of how we define assets-based community development (MacLeod and Akwugo, 2014). Later in the chapter we will discuss the idea that unlike the USA, in Scotland assets-based thinking is connected to issues of: rights, disproportionate resource distribution, material inequality, social inequality, unfair allocation of funding to vested interests and various definitions of social injustice such as inequitable access to legal, housing, social and health services (Davis, 2011; MacLeod and Akwugo, 2014).
Indeed, terms such as anti-discriminatory, participatory and inclusive practice are much more routinely employed alongside the term holistic strength-based working in Scotland than in some research of community development in the USA (see Davis, 2011; Davis and Smith, 2012; Davis et al., 2014 for further discussions of the conceptual, policy and practice context of this shift in relation to community, family and children’s services).
In particular, research in Scotland has drawn from Canada where various researchers have argued that community based and integrated service provision with First Nation aboriginal people needs to be built on holistic provision that connects with local cultures, values and practices (Ball and Sones, 2004; Moore et al., 2005). And, that professionals need to have a greater engagement with the socio-cultural history of the people they work with. Key issues in Canada include the impact over 60 decades of a shift from seasonal to sedentary housing; the fracturing of families by racist and abusive social service cultures that removed children far from their families and communities to be exploited as cheap labour; and the imposition of‘outside help’ whether communities wanted it or not (Moore et al. 2005).
Research concerning culturally sensitive and anti-discriminatory community development raises questions about the difference between community self- instigated development and development initiated by professionals who don’t live within a community or understand the everyday cultural issues that specific community members experience. Such research requires us to question our ability to be involved in culturally sensitive community processes of self- governance (Ball and Sones, 2004). It also asks us to make connections between the different aims of community development e.g. to support community health, boost local employment or address social justice issues, including the recognition of past injuries (Ball and Sones, 2004; Davis et al., 2014).
This research questions processes of community development where service providers are ‘outsiders’ and service users are characterised as powerless locals (Ball and Sones, 2004; Moore et al. 2005). Indeed, such writers argue that a shift in the power relations of local service development can only be achieved when the community development activity is perceived to be a collaborative learning process where all community members, children, young people, parents, professionals, relatives etc., are recognised as being the experts regarding their own lives, contributions and aspirations (Davis, 2011; Moore et al., 2005).
The research on politically nuanced approaches to community development encourage us in the second section of this chapter to pose questions about the political context of Benny Lynch’s life and to utilise his life as a case study from which to understand the experience of the Irish diaspora in Glasgow and how some sports, e.g. boxing, have acted to provide a locus where supporters of different religions could come together as a class and celebrate the achievements of ‘one of their own’. Similarly, the third section of this chapter examines how the power politics of community development in Glasgow cannot be disassociated from 60 decades of political disempowerment particularly experienced by migrant communities. It utilises the Glasgow Effect report on the causes of 60 decades of ill health and illnesses of despair to demonstrate that community development in Scotland, like the USA, must stop making false dichotomies between structural, cultural and individual oppression if it is to address issues of inequality and social justice. Finally, the fourth section of this chapter poses the question what are the barriers to community self- empowerment? And, how do local power politics play in relation to the ebb and flow of stability, disempowerment and conflict in local community work?
This final section seeks to connect Glaswegians’ love of Benny Lynch to the ideas that he provided recognition for his fellow Glaswegians’ way of life and to the idea that Lynch never lost sight of his roots. Our chapter also attempts to utilise Lynch’s story to work through fluid notions of identity, success, respect and social justice in light of the 2014 independence redefinition of what it is to be Scots - as a person who lives and works in Scotland, rather than a person who can claim allegiance to some sort of ethnic nationalism. In so doing it seeks to build on the idea that sport can be a resource of hope, support our aspirations for change, develop our capabilities and enable the ‘impossible to become possible’ (Jarvie et al. 2017).
In particular, the last section examines the media coverage of Benny Lynch and The Benny Lynch Statue campaign which seeks to have a statue erected to commemorate Benny Lynch’s life. It also argues that media attempts to associate the Benny Lynch story with notions of shame — continually fall flat in the face of working-class Glaswegian oral history which still celebrates Lynch’s contribution to his fellow citizen’s sense of equity, fairness, recognition and well-being. The chapter concludes that self-empowerment does not happen in a vacuum and change makers will always be confronted by vested interests and attempts to re-establish the status quo.