Who Am I? Summer 2013

Deirdre Clemente

Ireland is like that girlfriend who is crabby most of the time, but when she wants to be charming, you forget her many faults.

I am a scholar of 20th century American culture, but two months in the coastal town of Galway has taught me several things:

1. You can’t fake fresh fish. “Freeze-dried” and “vacuum-packed” are not the same as “right from the dock.”

2. I have become more American with age: Blame it on my Vegas mansion or my mini-van, but I am a creature of comfort. In my 20s I lived in Italy, and it didn’t bother me that I had to heat up my shower water for 45 minutes or hang-dry my laundry. That was Old World cool, but 15 years and three kids later, such inconveniences are well, inconvenient.

3. Craftsmanship is not dead.

I came to Ireland to edit my forthcoming book and start a new project on the most “Irish” of Irish material culture, the Aran sweater. When I wasn’t holed up in my office at the Centre for Irish Studies, I skulked around the charity shops looking for knitted objects to study, document, and okay, wear. I found a vest that is one continuous knit—there is no seam. I’ve examined patterns, smelled the mothballs, and learned to appreciate the art of knitting.

Perhaps more so, I’ve come to appreciate the significance of a garment in its geographic context—a vein of thinking first opened on my cross-town walks to the archives at Berkeley’s Bancroft Library where I did some dissertation research. Here, I came to understand geography as a primar