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Stereotypes, Ideology and Foreign Correspondents

German Media Representations of Ireland, 1946–2010

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Fergal Lenehan

This book examines German media representations of Ireland from 1946 to 2010, from the post-war period to the years of the so-called «Celtic Tiger» and Ireland’s subsequent economic downturn. It charts both the patterns and the inconsistencies in depictions of Ireland in the weekly publications Der Spiegel and Die Zeit, as well as in German cinema.

Cultural stereotypes may be employed in the furthering of a problematic cultural essentialism; however, they may also be used to «play» with readers’ or viewers’ expectations. They may be juxtaposed with newer cultural generalizations, or re-moulded to fit a transformed cultural reality. The representations of Ireland examined in this book are revealed as inherently ideological, consistently locating Ireland outside of an evolving European societal «normalcy». While this is often presented as something highly positive, the book argues that it implicitly places Germany at the centre of Europe and may be viewed as a type of excluding Europeanism.

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A structural theory of journalistic texts of “other” cultures that views stereotypes and ideology as analogous to textual semantics and syntax was central to this work. Evidence supporting this textual-structural theory was seen within texts dealing with Ireland in Der Spiegel and Die Zeit from 1946 to 2010. Whether this textual structure is evident within texts dealing with further cultural contexts remains of course an open question. It is hoped that some intercultural researchers may find validity in this theory, and may also test these ideas in relation to further contexts.

However, some factors relating to semantics may suggest that this theory – while still feasibly helpful in relation to certain contexts – may be an especially “good fit” in relation to the Irish setting. “Irishness” retains a probably overly represented position, in relation to geographical size, population and global influence, within transnational popular culture. Moving away from the paradigm of a strictly “one-way” Anglo-American cultural imperialism, recent authors have convincingly viewed cultural globalization as linked to the emergence of a new transnational, if not actually quite fully global, cultural field marked by a degree of reciprocity.1 Within this undoubtedly still American-influenced transnational cultural field heavily stereotyped Irish elements abound. This is evident for example in the, globally, highly successful adult cartoon, The Simpsons.2 As everyday German popular culture is deeply permeated by this transnational cultural field, the ← 275 | 276 → German social store of knowledge inherited from parents, teachers and in the digital age especially the media, retains...

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