In this seminar, you will be introduced to a range of exciting works by African-Irish writers and artists. We will mostly read poems and short stories, but will also take a look at some examples of spoken word performances, activism and (political) essay writing. We will explore such texts from a cultural studies perspective and thus also discuss them against the backdrop of Irish (colonial) history and the process of modernisation that became intricately connected to social constructions of whiteness in the 1990s.

The powerful works by African-Irish writers are worth exploring in their own right, but they are also highly relevant when we consider what difficulties BPoC, regardless of whether they are immigrants, refugees or were born in the Republic of Ireland, faced since the establishment of the Direct Provision system in 2000 and the referendum on citizenship in 2004. Among the aspects we will discuss are social identity constructions (matters of “Irishness”), the ambiguity of social constructions of “blackness” and “whiteness” in an allegedly anti-imperialist and postcolonial society, and the cultural work of literature and art in general. Besides, we’ll discuss the role of African-Irish writing in raising awareness for discriminatory structures, for expanding understandings of Irishness, for opening up the canon of Irish literature and thus possibilities of representation and, more generally speaking, for heightening the visibility of the “new Irish” (a somewhat problematic term we’ll have to scrutinise).

In this seminar, you will thus not only encounter texts by African-Irish writers and artists but will also be confronted with representational conventions and habits of seeing and reading. To establish a framework for our critical reflection and our analyses, we will read some academic articles and excerpts from (postcolonial) theory.  During the course of the seminar, we will continuously reflect on the concepts we encounter, interrogate representational conventions and contest established habits of seeing when reading texts and watching performances by, for instance, Melatu Uche Okorie, Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi and FeliSpeaks.

You have never heard about these developments in Ireland before? You know next to nothing about Irish literature and culture? Familiarity with Irish literature, history and culture is highly welcome but, of course, not mandatory. So don’t worry – sign up for this seminar to learn more about Irish society, literature and history and to get to know some exciting “new” voices in poetry and prose, arts and activism!