Welshness Performed: Welsh Concepts of Person & Society // Review

Article excerpt

This excellent monograph focusses on Welsh concepts of personhood and social order. In tackling this complex subject, Trosset incorporates approaches used for the study of ideology, practice theory and ethnopsychology. Furthermore, readers gain an in-depth understanding of ethnic and language politics in Wales. The field research on which the work is based was carried out in many different locales, ranging from small, northern villages to the southern city of Cardiff. Her familiarity with Wales as a whole has allowed Trosset to present an ethnography of a nation rather than of a particular community or communities. Also noteworthy is a methodological approach, inspired by the writings of Georges Devereux and Paul Riesman, whereby the anthropologist uses her or his subjectivity as the key tool in coming to an understanding of the cultural assumptions and experiences of those studied. This approach is made explicit throughout the volume, as personal narratives are interspersed with more objective analyses of Welsh behaviour, values, ideas and styles of interaction.

Key concepts of "what it means to be a person in society" (p. 3) are treated in separate chapters, but each new notion builds upon earlier ones. For instance, in chapter 2, Trossett suggests that society is stratified according to individual's relative participation in "Welsh" activities. The most important component of "Welshness" is to be a Welsh speaker; others include going to non-conformist chapel and being able to sing well. Although they live in dispersed locales throughout the nation, Welsh speakers are said to belong to the community of "Welsh-Wales." In the following chapter she continues to employ this concept of cultural stratification when she analyzes sectarian thinking, and shows that the Welsh-English distinction is "usually framed, and often experienced, in terms of internal divisions within Wales" (p. …