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The Black Irish Onscreen

Representing Black and Mixed-Race Identities on Irish Film and Television


Zelie Asava

This book examines the position of black and mixed-race characters in Irish film culture. By exploring key film and television productions from the 1990s to the present day, the author uncovers and interrogates concepts of Irish identity, history and nation.
In 2009, Ireland had the highest birth rate in Europe, with almost 24 per cent of births attributed to the ‘new Irish’. By 2013, 17 per cent of the nation was foreign-born. Ireland has always been a culturally diverse space and has produced a series of high-profile mixed-race stars, including Phil Lynott, Ruth Negga and Simon Zebo, among others. Through an analysis of screen visualizations of the black Irish, this study uncovers forgotten histories, challenges the perceived homogeneity of the nation, evaluates integration, and considers the future of the new Ireland. It makes a creative and significant theoretical contribution to scholarly work on the relationship between representation and identity in Irish cinema.
This book was the winner of the 2011 Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in Irish Studies.


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My sincere thanks go first to my exceptional parents Christopher and Pamela, for all that they have done for me and inspired me to achieve. I also give deepest thanks to my loving partner Eugene, for his incredible support. I would like to thank Christabel Scaife, the series editor Eamon Maher and all at Peter Lang for their invaluable guidance, patience and dedication. Special thanks go to Diane Negra and Gerardine Meaney whose remarkable work consistently inspires my scholarship. There are many colleagues and mentors who I would like to thank for their advice, friendship and con- sistent encouragement including Mary Beltrán, Anne Fogarty, Tony Tracy, Conn Holohan, Harvey O’Brien, Tony Fitzmaurice, Paula Gilligan, Gavan Titley, Werner Huber, Seán Crosson, Marc Caball, Rod Stoneman, Leon Conway, Dervila Layden, Karen Jackman, Naomi Zack, Elizabeth Ezra, Alice Feldman, Carrie Tarr, Ann Hoag, Denis Condon, Barry Monahan, Sarah McCann, Caroline O’Sullivan, Gerard (Bob) McKiernan, Laura Mulvey, Alan Grossman and Áine O’Brien. I would also like to thank Kevin Rockett, John Hill, Martin McLoone, Luke Gibbons and Ruth Barton, whose intellectually rigorous work in Irish Film Studies opened the doors for new academic enquiries such as my own. My gratitude is extended to Dundalk Institute of Technology, RTE archives, Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin for access to resources. My special thanks go to the editors who have helped me to hone my craft in other publi- cations (not excepting those mentioned above) – Krin Gabbard, Claire Bracken, Emma Radley, Fiona Barclay,...

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