In Search of Ireland: A Cultural Geography

In Search of Ireland: A Cultural Geography

In Search of Ireland: A Cultural Geography

In Search of Ireland: A Cultural Geography

Synopsis

Arguing that Ireland's political problems are created by conflicts and confusions of identity, the contributors examine the nature of the political economy and the exercise of power within the context of contemporary cultural geography.

Excerpt

The justification for this book rests upon the argument that Ireland’s political problems are created by conflicts and confusions of identity. A permanent end to violence and the negotiation of agreed political structures depend on an eventual resolution to these more complex dilemmas. Moreover, the problems of Irish society cannot be depicted solely in terms of religious—political differences, expressed through opposed constructs of nationalism. As is true of any society, all social groups in Ireland draw upon the past to legitimate and validate both their present attitudes and their future aspirations. They do so, however, within a complex geographical mosaic of locality, class and gender. As a study in cultural geography, the book addresses the contested nature of contemporary Irish identity through a consideration of the meanings of place. The themes of the book are placed within the context of the idea that any social reality must be referred to the space, place or region within which it exists. Places are invented, a myth of territory being basic to the construction and legitimation of identity and to the sanctioning of the principles of a society. Thus place is inseparable from concepts such as empowerment, nationalism and cultural hegemony. Societies and localities are interdependent in that social power cannot be conceived without a geographical context; its exercise shapes space which in turn shapes social power. Consequently, myths of identity which seamlessly interweave place and past are widely used to shape identity and to support particular state structures and related political ideologies.

However, as these constructs are socially situated in time, it is likely that myths of identity embody patterns of expedient exclusivity, thereby ensuring that they can be no more than transient representations of any society. Circumstances change and momentarily dominant images of a society, forged in particular epochs for specific purposes, are inevitably challenged or contested along new axes of identity. The past several decades have witnessed a sustained academic attempt to revise representations of Ireland’s past and its imagery of place, a questioning of traditional myths which, on the one hand, were erected to justify independence from Britain

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