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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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Chapter Three New Identities in the Irish Horror Film


: Isolation (O’Brien, 2005) and Boy Eats Girl (Bradley, 2005)1 Mixed Monsters In October 2007, the Sunday Times Culture supplement opened its Film Special with a look at what the feature writer Pavel Barter called an explo- sion in Irish horror films: ‘From Stephen Bradley’s Boy Eats Girl (2005)… to Billy O’Brien’s Isolation (2006)… indigenous cinema has a new-found appetite to shock’ (4). This chapter will examine representations of racial mixing and gender in these multicultural Irish horror films. Both Isolation and Boy Eats Girl feature mixed-race female protagonists: Mary, played by Irish-Ethiopian actress Ruth Negga, and Jessica, played by Irish-Zambian popstar/actress/model Samantha Mumba. These films are a unique part of Irish cinema in that they use horror conventions to privilege mixed-race issues and so ref lect the changing face of the Irish nation as well as raising issues concerning Irish identity and tradition. The chapter will begin by exploring the socio-political representational schemas of each film, as well as the ef fects of multiculturalism in Ireland, with reference to scholars such as Ronit Lentin and Gerardine Meaney. It will go on to consider the his- tory of Irish horror and the key thematic figure, the monster, with which will be paralleled the historically perceived monstrosity of racial mixing. Finally, it will interrogate the Irish tropes contained within the films and consider the larger question of the position of mixed figures onscreen. 1 A version of this chapter was originally published in: Claire Bracken and Emma Radley, eds (2013), Viewpoints:...

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