A Postnationalist Approach
Edited By Irene Gilsenan Nordin and Carmen Zamorano Llena
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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