Frantz Fanon and Cultural Nationalism in Ireland

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Frantz Fanon and Cultural Nationalism in Ireland Only recently has Ireland been included in the extensive study of postcolonial societies. Our geographical closeness to Britain, the fact that we are racially identical, the fact that we speak the same language and have the same value systems make our status as postcolonial problematic. Indeed, some would argue it is impossible to tell the difference between Irish and British. However, to mistake Irish for English to some is a grave insult. In this essay, I would like to look at Ireland’s emerging postcolonial status in relation to Frantz Fanon’s ‘The Wretched of the Earth’. By examining Fanon’s theories on the rise of cultural nationalism in colonised societies, one can see that events taking place in Ireland at the end of the nineteenth century bear all the hallmarks of a colonised people’s anti-colonial struggle through the revival of a culture that attempts to assert difference to the coloniser and the insistence on self-government. The years 1870 to 1890 in Ireland saw the fervent battle of Charles Stewart Parnell and his Home Rule party for home rule in Ireland. This consisted of Ireland having its own parliament to deal with internal affairs while still remaining under the control of Westminster in international affairs. It was not the desire for a full separation from Britain that would come later. However, by 1890, problems in Parnell’s personal life lead to a breakdown in communication with the Prime Minister and to a split in the Home Rule party. According to M E Collins, this left a void in Irish politics and life that was filled with a new cultural awareness and a questioning of Irish identity: ‘the new movements were different. They stressed the importance of Irish identity, Irish race and Irish culture’ (170 M E Collins, Ireland 1868 - 1966). It is at this point that Fanon’s ‘Wretched of the Earth’ becomes relevant to Irish history. In his chapter entitled ‘On National Consciousness’, Fanon stresses the colonised native fears of being assimilated totally into the culture of the coloniser, of being ‘swamped’ (169 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth). These were the exact concerns that occupied the minds of the Irish people after the failure of home rule. They began to be anxious about what Collins terms ‘the distinguishing marks of Irishness’: ‘a culture and language that was different to Britain’s’.

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