Anarchy in the UK

A. C. Haddon. 1898. Digital scan of a still from the short film that Haddon made of the dance of the Malu Zogo Le on the island of Mer, Torres Strait (© National Film and Sound Archive of Australia).

Anarchy in the UK: Haddon and the anarchist agenda in the Anglo-Irish folklore movement

Ciarán Walsh


The mobilisation of tradition by separatists in the Brexit movement has revived the spectre of folklore studies constituting a resource for ethnocentric nationalism and Nazism. There is––almost––an inevitability about the coupling of ethnical authenticity and genocidal xenophobia, but there is another, long-forgotten history of folklore studies in Europe. This tells the story of utopians and revolutionaries who used the study of traditional communities as a resource for the reconstruction of modern European societies, guided by socialised anthropology and calling for anarchy in the UK. Alfred Cort Haddon, Patrick Geddes, and Henry “Havelock” Ellis began reconstructing anthropology in 1890 with reformist experiments that form the core of this chapter, which draws on an unprecedented ‘Irish’ reading of Haddon’s papers and related records. It focuses on Haddon’s use of photo-ethnographic performance to mobilise an anti-colonial, Anglo-Irish folklore movement: a ‘savage-lives-matter’ campaign that confronted Eurocentric racism and genocide in the colonies.


Walsh, Ciarán. 2021. “Anarchy in the UK: Haddon and the anarchist agenda in the Anglo-Irish folklore movement.” In Folklore and nation in Britain and Ireland edited by Matthew Cheeseman and Carina Hart. London: Routledge Taylor Francis.

 Keywords:  art | dance | photo-ethnography | ethnology | post-evolutionism | anti-colonial | anarcho-utopian theories | social reform | insurrection | Anti-slavery movement | Ireland | Aran Islands | modernism | traditional versus practical debate.

Posted on

August 22, 2022