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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 Four Black and Mixed Masculinities in Irish Cinema


: The Nephew (Brady, 1998), Irish Jam (Eyres, 2006) and The Front Line (Gleeson, 2006)1 The Black Irish The Nephew (Brady, 1998), Irish Jam (Eyres, 2006) and The Front Line (Gleeson, 2006) challenge insular representations of Ireland in their decon- structions of the mixed/black male body, multiculturalism and the ‘new Irish’. We will begin by considering the position of blackness and mixed- ness in Irish film and society, before moving on to considerations of these films and their socio-political representational schemas in order to assess their representations of, and attitudes towards, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender in Irish culture. The Nephew, Irish Jam and The Front Line are most relevant to con- siderations of cross-cultural exchange and dialogue given their focus on immigration, cultural hybridity, and cross-currents of language, ethnicity, and cinematic form. These films redefine the boundaries of nation, citi- zen, and kin. Like most Irish films their focus is on male subjectivity, but they also challenge hegemonic views. As Luke Gibbons noted with regard to 1990s Irish films, their explorations of non-white and non-normative patriarchy within secular societies where women lead active roles: ‘oper- ate politically, as alternative national narratives to the of ficial discourses 1 A version of this chapter was originally published in: Werner Huber and Seán Crosson, eds (2011), Contemporary Irish Cinema: New Perspectives on a National Cinema. Vienna: Braumüller and New Academic Press. 102 Chapter Four of faith and fatherland’ (1993: 13). But, as films made by white Irishmen (albeit diasporic), they also...

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