Thursday, April 07, 2005

Frozen Ham and Eggers at the Penny Arcade

Well, it's been a quiet few weeks here at NINS. I've returned from Dublin to Belfast and have now got a stack to catch up on before making the rather longer journey to South Africa, first to Durban and from there to Grahamstown on the Eastern Cape. As always, I'm not really looking forward to the travelling, but it'll be a fun week.

Today's task is to start on a redraft of the paper I plan to present in the Politics and International Studies Department, Rhodes University, on identity and Northern Ireland. I've published on (largely southern) Irish nationalism before, so am writing a rather stylised account of Ulster Unionism.

The article has to serve a two-fold purpose, though, because it's to appear in a collection of papers, most of whom will attack my position. So I have to say what I want to say (a continuation of my usual theme, that setting up states based on cultural claims will end in tears) and rebut the expected points of my fellow authors. I think I've found a way to do this, by basing the piece on the claim that Unionism as an Ulster/British/Protestant identity is at base political, driven by fears about the border. The NI state, explicitly designed for the protection of Unionists from the perceived threat of all-Ireland rule, was bound to fail, since it was bent to that purpose, just as its mirror down south very nearly failed because it was partly aimed at achieving some mythical, mystical, Catholic Irishness, rather than having regard for the welfare of all citizens or towards the creation of wealth. In other words, the double secession of the 1920s was pretty much a disaster for all of us.

The good thing is that communicating this to people in other countries really just entails a discussion about Belfast, the politics of fear and cultural claims in general. I'll just skip the more boring theoretical bits and get on with trying to get to grips with NI's literally intractable problems. Fun!

No comments: