The use of public houses as a collective representation of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ireland

John O’Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pubs have served as a collective representation through which the collective identity of ‘Irish society’ has been articulated during the crisis of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. As such they offer a case study of how meaning making occurs in contemporary periods of social crisis. While the neoliberal era is widely interpreted as period involving a process of desymbolisation in which meaning giving traditions are undermined, in this period of social crisis long-established and authoritative narratives drawn from collective memory circulated to articulate the meaning of the pandemic for the collective identity in the sense of its nature, character, boundaries, ‘others’, and moral duties and sacrifices that membership implied. Highly stereotyped images of the sacred moral core of the collective as represented by publicans who embodied qualities of age and maturity, rural, cultural-nationalist identity and a post Land War ideal of community-oriented owner-proprieters appeared. Similarly conventional representations of the immoral enemies within, who threaten to morally and literally infect the community, can be seen in representations of venues and drinkers who embody youth, the urban crowd and mixing. The ‘other’ through which identity is articulated against was represented through Britishness, which was shown as the source of the undesirable aspects of modernity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-371
Number of pages19
JournalIrish Journal of Sociology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • alcohol
  • collective identity
  • collective representation
  • desymbolisation
  • Public house


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