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Non-Violent Resistance

Irreverence in Irish Culture


Edited By Agnès Maillot, Jennifer Bruen and Jean-Philippe Imbert

Humour, by its very nature controversial, plays an important role in social interaction. With its power to question assumptions, it can be used a weapon of subversion, and its meaning and interpretation are embedded within the culture that generates them in complex ways. The scrutiny of Irish culture through the lens of humour is highly revealing, contributing to an alternative, and sometimes irreverent, reading of events. As John Updike wrote of Raymond Queneau’s witty re-imagining of the Easter Rising, humour can effectively expose «casual ambivalence».

This volume investigates the many ways in which writers, playwrights, politicians, historians, filmmakers, artists and activists have used irreverence and humour to look at aspects of Irish culture and explore the contradictions and shortcomings of the society in which they live.

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4 Rather Sex than Pistols: Good Vibrations and the Punk Scene in Northern Ireland (Agnès Maillot)


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4 Rather Sex than Pistols: Good Vibrations and the Punk Scene in Northern Ireland

Good Vibrations, directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn and released in 2012, is a quintessentially irreverent film. It treats the conflict, the institutions, the paramilitaries, and the politicians with irreverence. Without undermining the hardship and violence generated by the Troubles, it takes a humorous approach to the most serious issues which characterised the social and political fabric of Northern Ireland in the late 1970s, deriding the perpetrators of violence and those who perpetuated the sectarian nature of society. The perspective adopted by the film is one where politics have failed to address an historical and unfounded hatred. The alternative is music, which is presented as the only means to transcend these divisions. This biopic’s main character, Terry Hooley, has but one faith, one creed: Rock music, which can generate a space where barriers are broken down. Music is the future.

Punk in Northern Ireland has fascinated and continues to fascinate academics and punk nostalgics alike ever since the rise of the movement in 1977 and its subsequent decline in the early 1980s. The punk narrative sees Protestant and Catholic youths united to protest against the establishment, in what was possibly the only instance of such an unusual alliance. As Guardian/Observer correspondent Henry McDonald noted, ‘Yet “that” gig [the Clash] still exercises more power over the memories of the early Ulster punk generation....

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