Aquacity Versus Austerity: The Politics and Poetics of Irish Water
The global financial crisis of 2008 was, and is, a crisis of the commons. The policies of austerity and privatization enacted by European governments in response to the crisis only brought this fact into sharper relief. In Ireland when the government resolved to privatize its water infrastructure in 2013, an unexpectedly strong popular resistance movement took to the streets in protest. Water supply is often symbolic of the commons, and in Irish literature, there is a peculiarly strong tradition of thematizing and formalizing waterworks as an exemplary instance of what Bonnie Honig calls a ‘public thing’. This chapter recounts the recent political history of Irish Water alongside the nearly 100 year literary history of Irish water in Irish fiction, from James Joyce’s Ulysses to Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman and, most recently, to Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones. In the figure of Irish water, the Irish literary tradition speaks with urgency to the Irish neoliberal condition.
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