Discrepant experiences in the Irish borderlands: Gendered spaces, contested language, and shifting identity in Free Derry, Northern Ireland

Date
2010
Authors
Mac Crossan, Elizabeth
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Abstract

This dissertation focuses on the literature and culture of the nationalist community of the Bogside, in Derry, Northern Ireland, which I theorize as a border community that is the epicenter of the modern Troubles. This site, also known as "Free Derry," is a community that negotiates its history in a variety of complex and often contradictory ways, from violent to artistic, anti-imperialistic to patriarchal, openly to subversively. I draw on borderlands theories from Chicana/o and postcolonial intellectuals such as Emma Perez, Mary Pat Brady, Jose David Saldivar, Edward Said, David Lloyd, Walter Mignolo, and Joe Cleary to reassess the cultural politics along the borders between Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as between Northern Ireland and Britain. I also use various theoretical pursuits in cultural studies to consider such multi-genre and multi-media cultural artifacts as texts developed by women's collective writing groups, textiles, memoir, testimonial literature, graffiti, murals, journalism, popular music, and poetry as performative borderlands discourses. Following U.S. Chicana/o theorists, I argue that the Irish borderlands discourses challenge hegemonic Irish cultural nationalist discourses on history, culture, and politics. I ultimately propose a new paradigm for looking at the north of Ireland based in part on U.S. border studies, and further complicated by women's studies and spatial studies.

I propose to destabilize hegemonic ideas of "Ireland," "Northern Ireland" and/or "the north of Ireland," and "the Troubles" pursuant to opening up possibilities of seeing Northern Irish literature and art as complicating the traditional picture of an Ireland that is becoming a much more industrial and ethnically diverse nation and thus more complex, perhaps, at times, more hegemonic. Colonialism around the globe involved drawing borders, and we can begin to work out the consequences of those borders by marking similarities and differences that those imagined and imaginary lines engender. On the island of Ireland, we can begin to center the marginal and marginalized to rethink the Irish canon and its historical project through the works I engage here, including those by Bernadette Devlin, Paddy Doherty, the Bogside Artists, Nell McCafferty, Mary Nelis, Gerry Adams, women's writing groups and oral histories, the Undertones, and Colette Bryce, as well as the Museum of Free Derry, Free Derry Corner, and the Derry City Walls.

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Keywords
Bogside, borderlands, cultural studies, Northern Ireland, postcolonial
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Department
English