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Introduction

The Racial Imaginaries of Irish Literature and Culture

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 January 2024

Malcolm Sen
Affiliation:
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Julie McCormick Weng
Affiliation:
Texas State University
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Summary

This chapter introduces the essays of this book and historicizes why a book on race in Irish literature and culture is of special significance at this contemporary moment in the twenty-first century. The editors signal the ubiquity of the concept of race in Irish letters and the changing iterations of that concept, especially since the Celtic Revival. Irishness has been compared and even equated to blackness to serve both colonial and nationalist agendas. However, in Revivalist and post-Celtic Tiger discourses, the racial imaginary surrounding Irishness has also been silenced in telling ways. This essay connects the dots between these divergent histories to narrativize a critical position that aids a decolonial framing of the subject of race, Irish literature, and Irish culture. Such a decolonial endeavor is especially urgent at a time when fascist nationalisms and white supremacy are becoming key geopolitical registers. It is also a time when Irish whiteness is being scrutinized and when Black Irishness is gaining recognition. This is a unique moment in the history of Ireland, and it is partly because of the growing crescendo of cultural identification by a biracial population within Ireland.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2024

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