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Redefinitions of Irish Identity

A Postnationalist Approach


Edited By Irene Gilsenan Nordin and Carmen Zamorano Llena

Recently, the issue of postnationalism has encouraged intense debate, which has been reflected in the publication of numerous books and articles in various fields of study, including politics, history, philosophy and anthropology. However, the work produced in Irish literary criticism has been much sparser. This collection of essays aims to fill this gap and provide new insights into the debate on postnationalism in Ireland from the perspective of narrative writing. The book collects thirteen essays by academics from various countries, including Ireland, the United States and Sweden. It analyses the concepts of the postnational and the postnationalist in relation to globalisation, as well as the debate that postnationalist discourse has opened in various fields of knowledge, and its definitions and implications in the contemporary Irish historical and literary context. The literary forms under consideration include essay writing, drama, fiction, autobiography, film and poetry. The authors whose work is analysed here include Dermot Bolger, Hubert Butler, Ciaran Carson, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, Marie Jones, Derek Mahon, Frank McGuinness, Robert McLiam Wilson, Conor McPherson, Sinéad Morrissey, Nuala O’Faolain and David Wheatley.


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Miriam O’Kane Mara The search for global Irishness in Nuala O’Faolain 63


Miriam O’Kane Mara The search for global Irishness in Nuala O’Faolain Of all the countries in the European Union, Ireland has become globalised with record speed. By the mid-1990s it had reversed the depressed economy of the 1980s, when high unemployment caused, once again, migration out of Ireland. During the Celtic Tiger era, global investment allowed Ire- land to create a strong economy with high employment, which attracted immigrants of various ethnic backgrounds into the Republic. The ebb and flow of these diasporic tides has forced a similarly rapid shift in identity perception. Richard Kearney attests that ‘the “Irish community” today […] refers not merely to the inhabitants of a state, but to an international group of expatriates and a subnational network of regional communities’ (1997: 99). His statement has long been partially true, but contemporary communication and transportation technologies – what anthropologist Arjun Appadurai terms ‘major and interconnected diacritics’ (1996: 3) – offer new opportunities to trace these Irish identity shifts. Kearney explains how ‘this triple-layered identity [state, expatriate, and regional] means that Irishness is no longer co-terminous with the geographical outlines of an island’ (1997: 99). Nuala O’Faolain’s texts sustain such a global under- standing of the Irish community, almost dispensing with the boundaries of the Republic of Ireland as a nation-state. In her fictional work she con- structs her characters with that layered Irish identity suggested by Kearney. O’Faolain’s version of Irishness is not unlike that of the nineteenth century, when immigrants to the United States and Canada claimed that...

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