Culture and Identity Politics in Northern Ireland

By Hallman, Candler | Anthropological Quarterly, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

Culture and Identity Politics in Northern Ireland


Hallman, Candler, Anthropological Quarterly


Máiréad Nic Craith, Culture and Identity Politics in Northern Ireland. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003, 256 pp.

Máiréad Nic Craith's Culture and Identity Politics in Northern Ireland offers a fine portrayal of a phase in Irish politics and history distinguished by a degree of political collaboration but also infused with symbolic and identity conflict. The largely non-violent but symbolic discord of this period is the root paradox described in Nic Craith's account: a Northern Ireland principally unified in an endeavor for peace but robustly divided on the precise nature of officially recognized political identities.

Máiréad Nic Craith's work is part survey of contemporary developments in Northern Irish identity politics and part social critique of these recent manifestations. The official efforts on the part of the British-supported Northern Irish government encourage the development of political identity along the two historically constituted poles of Northern Irish political activity: Nationalist and Unionist. Further, Nic Craith contends that the officially legitimated identity categories differ greatly from identity "on the ground" in Northern Irish society.

Public political identity is not a multifaceted assemblage, but rather a largely stagnant and immutable construction around which individuals organize. These manifestations of Nationalist and Unionist identity are alternately, for Nic Craith, the objects of study and subjects of criticism.

For Nic Craith, the dialectic between political factions and the government serves as the construction site of Irish political identity. The locus of this identity negotiation is the "public sphere," where identity crystallizes in political discourse, educational programs, and museums.

The cultural and political characteristics, exported into the public sphere, provide the ingredients for the shaping of Irish political institutions and identity.

Nic Craith's vision of the public sphere can be likened to a pair of individuals piecing together a jig-saw puzzle. Equate the Nationalist and Unionist traditions to the builders. The aspiration for the actors is not the construction of the picture into a stable and unifying whole. Rather, the goal is the construction of a maximum portion of the puzzle for one's self. Just as the Unionist and Nationalist construct identity through a pool of common resources (political life, notions of nationhood, ethnicity, and language), advancement is only achieved through the stripping of pieces from the other builder. But this dualistic notion of Irish identity is in principle a myth. In between the traditional identities of Nationalist and Unionist lie various adaptations of each. Further, actors with multi-ethnic identities creep into the margins of the public sphere, but Nic Craith first focuses on the two principal actors in Northern Irish Politics.

The English government, a long-time ally of the Unionist factions in Northern Ireland, has in the last two decades attempted to realign itself as a neutral negotiator. The Irish government has, as well, adopted a more conciliatory stance. The two political divisions are, as Dr. Nic Craith notes, not well-defined and united political fronts. Rather, the political identity of Northern Ireland is perhaps best viewed as a complex web of competing identities and goals in political life. Emphatically, however, all of the actors attempt to construct a picture that reveals two clear and essentialized political identities. British policies attempt the reconciliation of the two while the more vociferous groups endeavor to assemble an officially supported political and/or cultural identity at the expense of the other.

Essential to Nic Craith's argument is this public competition for this governmental recognition by the political parties in Northern Ireland. Consider her discussion of the creation of Ulster-British culture in the 1980s. In response to what was viewed as a political and educational saturation of Gaelic history and culture, Protestant groups (such as the Ulster Young Unionist Council) sought to dispel the labeling of Ulster-Scots mythology as nationally Irish. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Culture and Identity Politics in Northern Ireland
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.