From apes and thick micks to the Fighting Irish
Conley, Meghan Ann
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Despite the continuing controversy surrounding the use of mascots depicting indigenous peoples of the United States, little attention is paid to the Fighting Irish mascot at the University of Notre Dame. Although historically founded by a sect of French Catholic priests, the institution has formally used the Fighting Irish moniker for 87 years. Ironically, the team name came just six years after the Irish finally gained independence from Great Britain after hundreds of years of oppression. This case study analyzes the history of the Irish in the United States as well as the University of Notre Dame in order to better understand whether the Fighting Irish symbolism is a form of cultural imperialism in use at one of the United States’ premier educational institutions. Drawing on the work of Edward Said’s notion of cultural imperialism, the University of Notre Dame licensing and mascot program promotes a dialogue that “others” a national group that has historically faced injustice and mockery. Finally, this study employs a qualitative survey of a select sample of University of Notre Dame alumni in order to better understand how this group of university stakeholders reacts to the origins of Notre Dame’s marks in historical discrimination and imperialist stereotype of Irish people.