Modernity, Freedom, and the African Diaspora: Dublin, New Orleans, Paris

Modernity, Freedom, and the African Diaspora: Dublin, New Orleans, Paris

Modernity, Freedom, and the African Diaspora: Dublin, New Orleans, Paris

Modernity, Freedom, and the African Diaspora: Dublin, New Orleans, Paris

Synopsis

Elisa Joy White investigates the contemporary African Diaspora communities in Dublin, New Orleans, and Paris and their role in the interrogation of modernity and social progress. Beginning with an examination of Dublin’s emergent African immigrant community, White shows how the community’s negotiation of racism, immigration status, and xenophobia exemplifies the ways in which idealist representations of global societies are contradicted by the prevalence of racial, ethnic, and cultural conflicts within them. Through the consideration of three contemporaneous events—the deportations of Nigerians from Dublin, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and the uprisings in the Paris suburbs—White reveals a shared quest for social progress in the face of stark retrogressive conditions.

Excerpt

Until quite recently when one considered African Diaspora communities, Ireland rarely, if ever, came to mind. But at the start of the twentyfirst century, Ireland provided an opportunity to witness the swift beginning of a “multicultural” society in a formerly colonized, negatively racialized, and lesser-developed Western nation scrambling to catch up with its newly prosperous economy and relatively modern position in the global arena. Yet, in 2000 and 2001, just prior to the global ripple of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States and the proclamation of the end of the “Celtic Tiger” (see McManus 2001; Hennessy 2001), Ireland was the site of the development of an African Diaspora community at a moment that was both crucial and unique; crucial in that the presence of the African Diaspora aided in the rapid transformation of prior notions of the Irish national and cultural identity, and unique in that Ireland’s new global presence offered an unprecedented “social laboratory” in which to examine the persistence of race-based inequalities in perceived modern global societies.

Quite problematically, the modernity of societies is measured by the value of their economic success and related technological progress in the context of historical and contemporary industrialization and global economic markets (see Headrick 1988; Kiely 1998; Adas 1990; Bensel 2000). From the late eighteenth century to the early nineteenth century, representing a nascent form of the economic and cultural globalization that is now recognizable today, the theoretical construction of modern societies increasingly incorporated a notion of progress defined by industrialization that was also coterminous with the articulation of concepts of democracy, egalitarianism, and freedom (see Inkeles 1960; McClelland 1961; Kerr et al. 1962; Huntington 1996). and yet side by side with these . . .

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