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'Race', Nation and Belonging in Ireland.

'Race', Nation and Belonging in Ireland.

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Jonathan Mitchell. Originally submitted for Sociology at Queen’s University Belfast, with lecturer Dr Katy Hayward in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Jonathan Mitchell. Originally submitted for Sociology at Queen’s University Belfast, with lecturer Dr Katy Hayward in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
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08/15/2014

 
 SOC3005 Essay:
‘Race’, Nation and Belonging in Ireland
 
 
1The last half-century has seen a vast acceleration in the movement of peoples. Thus,formerly relatively homogeneous nations, particularly those of Europe, are increasinglyhybridised through exposure to diverse customs and values. This has not been untroubled:despite widespread vilification and attendant policy prescriptions, the problem of ‘race’
1
 remains pertinent throughout. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are not exemptfrom this; both have seen rising numbers of racist attacks in the last decade. Racism hasvariously been portrayed as a form of ignorance or reflection of personal insecurity,
2
orsubconscious, internalised lack of regard, and most policy has focused upon two forms:
individual
, and
institutional
;
3
the former denotes direct physical or verbal abuse, the latter unequalaccess to services due to “unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and raciststereotyping”.
4
However, despite policy implementation and public recognition, there hasbeen little substantive change regarding institutional racism, and individual attacks — such asthose on the Roma community in Belfast
5
— remain all too common. It is difficult, then, tosustain the argument that racism is simply unwitting. Thus it is crucial to consider why othersbecome ‘Others’; that is, what are the processes that allow societies fully cognisant of thewrongs of racism to continue to think the ethnicities of others as not only irreduciblydifferent, but moreover, fully incompatible with their own? Arguably such tensions must beconsidered with regards to unreflective acceptance of modes of thinking that essentialise ‘
race
’,
ethnicity
and
 nation
, that ascribe to these fixed and inherent characteristics or insolubleboundaries;
6
this arguably creates preconditions for, and may directly provoke, individual andinstitutional racisms.
Race
’ — the belief that humanity separates into biologically-discrete groups with essentialor inherent characteristics
7
— has been discredited by natural and social science alike; there has
1
 
The convention of inverted commas denotes the contested nature of the term.
 
2
 
D Mann-Kler, "Identity and Racism in Northern Ireland," in
Racism and Anti-Racism in Ireland
, ed. Ronit Lentin and RobbieMcVeigh (Belfast: Beyond the Pale, 2002).
 
3
 
Robbie McVeigh,
The Next Stephen Lawrence?: Racist Violence and Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland
(Belfast: Northern Ireland Council forEthnic Minorities, 2006).
 
4
 
MacPherson Report 1999 in Paul Connolly and Romana Khaoury, "Whiteness, Racism and Exclusion: A Critical RacePerspective," in
Northern Ireland After the Troubles: A Society in Transition
, ed. C Coulter and M Murray (Manchester: ManchesterUniversity Press, 2008), 197.
 
5
 
"Romanians Leave NI After Attacks,"
BBC News
, Web (June 23, 2009),http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8114234.stm (accessed April 12, 2011).
 
6
 
Floya Anthias, "Diasporic Hybridity and Transcending Racisms," in
Rethinking Anti-Racisms: From Theory to Practice
, ed. FloyaAnthias and Cathie Lloyd (London: Routledge, 2002).
 
7
 
Steve Garner,
Racism in the Irish Experience
(London: Pluto Press, 2004).
 
 
2been concerted effort to supplant it with
ethnicity
or
culture,
8
implying shared ancestry, folkpractices, geographical boundaries, group consciousness, sense of belonging, or other suchaspects human communities organise around.
9
However, ‘race’ remains salient inasmuch as ithas social significance: individuals consider it real and act accordingly; thus, ‘race’ has realeffects.
10
While there are no relations between biological or genetic ‘races’,
11
there are
relationsthat have been racialised
. ‘Racial formation’
12
denotes the relational processes whereby a particulargroup becomes racialised, invested with a particular set of meanings “society invents,manipulates or retires when convenient”;
13
meanings that while fluid, are treated as thoughfixed. Crucially, racialisation is never neutral, but rather implicated in relations whereby onegrouping asserts its identity by establishing difference or boundedness from another in abinary that is inherently hierarchical.
14
Theorists have thus considered “the central role playedby the colonized in understanding who ‘we’ are, or are not”,
15
Othering processes that clarifythe literal and figurative borders of (post)colonial Europe. Similarly, critical race studies revealhow whiteness provides the “central reference point by which all other groups are‘Othered”,
16
but does so without explicit recognition, unmarking and naturalising itself through the concomitant marking of non-white Others. Northern Ireland’s ethnic minorities,for example, have historically been accorded attention only during cultural festivals, viewedthrough a prism of Otherness that reinforces a status of ‘outsiders within’.
17
Ethnicity andculture are equally subject to such processes owing to an all too easy conceptual slippage intoprimordialism,
18
from “biological heredity [to] the insurmountability of cultural
8
 
Alana Lentin, "Replacing 'Race', Historicizing 'Culture' in Multiculturalism,"
Patterns of Prejudice
39, no. 4 (2005):doi:10.1080/00313220500347832.
 
9
 
Peter Ratcliffe, "Conceptualizing 'Race', Ethnicity and Nation: Towards a Comparative Perspective," in
'Race', Ethnicity andNation: International Perspectives on Social Conflict
, ed. Peter Ratcliffe (London: UCL Press, 1996).
 
10
 
David Mason,
Race and Ethnicity in Modern Britain
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).
 
11
 
Ian F. Haney López, "The Social Construction of Race," in
Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge
, ed. Richard Delgado(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995).
 
12
 
Winant 1994 in Tony Kushner, "Racialization and 'White European' Immigration to Britain," in
Racialization: Studies in Theoryand Practice
, ed. Karim Murji and John Solomos (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 209.
 
13
 
Delgado & Stefancic 2001 in Connolly and Khaoury, "Whiteness, Racism and Exclusion," 194.
 
14
 
Anthias, "Diasporic Hybridity and Transcending Racisms".
 
15
 
Kushner, "Racialization and 'White European' Immigration to Britain," 210.
 
16
 
Connolly and Khaoury, "Whiteness, Racism and Exclusion," 195.
 
17
 
Liz Fawcett, "Fitting In: Ethnic Minorities and the News Media," in
Divided Society: Ethnic Minorities and Racism in Northern Ireland
,ed. Paul Hainsworth (London: Pluto Press, 1998).
 
18
 
Mason,
Race and Ethnicity in Modern Britain
.
 

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