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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 Five Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me


: Traf ficked (O’Connor, 2010) and the Multicultural Irish Thriller1 ‘Multiculti’ Masculinity in Irish Visual Culture The new wave of ‘multiculti’2 films which this book considers ref lect a questioning of varying formulations of Irishness. This chapter will explore ideas of identity and then consider representations of Irish masculinity in the multicultural era in Ciaran O’Connor’s Traf ficked (2010, first released as Capital Letters in 2004), with reference to Neil Jordan’s Ondine (2009), and Brendan Muldowney’s Savage (2009). Irishness and indeed Irish masculinity was once viewed as unproblem- atic and films like The Quiet Man (Ford, USA, 1952) played on popular stereotypes of the latter as constituted by violence and alcoholism, hero- ism and artistry. Even in 1998’s The Nephew, Irish manhood is linked to an ability to maintain Irish traditions, from knowing a local tune to enjoying a pint of ‘the black stuf f ’ and being able to defend the family’s honour. This positioning ref lected Ireland’s contemporaneous economical and political marginalization. But the parameters of Irish identity have come under serious scrutiny since the late 1990s Celtic Tiger era emergence of not only a significant immigrant culture in Ireland, but also new under- standings of what it means to be Irish.3 Within this new framework, ideas 1 A version of this chapter was originally published in: Tony Tracy and Conn Holohan, eds (2013), Masculinity and Irish Popular Culture: Tiger’s Tales, London: Palgrave Macmillan. 2 That is to say, multicultural. See also Beltràn, 2005; Nakamura, 2008. 3 See...

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