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Blacks in Postcolonial Europe: The Case of the African Diaspora in Ireland

Elisa Joy White

During the current period of globalization the Republic of Ireland has become an African Diaspora site. In an attempt to understand the significance of this relatively new Black community in a previously colonized and peripheralized European nation, I argue that the new African Diaspora communities of Dublin, Ireland are being forged in the context of what I define as a retro-global society, a formally lesser developed, new global society that retains pervasive and highly conspicuous social elements or constructs that are more indicative of earlier periods of globalization.

I contend that the key mechanisms which facilitate the maintenance of the “retro-global” in Ireland are processes of minoritization and media production. The project introduces and explains my theory of the retro-global society primarily via a disqualification of other nations that appear retro-global; including an overview of immigration, citizenship, and identity in four other European nations (France, Britain, Germany and Finland) as a means of exploring what has informed the discourse around “race,” ethnic difference and migration in Ireland and placing the nation and Black identity within the larger context of Europe.

The proposed position paper is based on data gathered during fieldwork conducted for my doctoral thesis, Making Space in a Time Warp: African Diaspora Culture and Identity in Retro-Global Dublin, while living in Dublin during 2000-2001 and includes data from subsequent follow-up research in February 2002 and July 2004. It is my intention to contribute to a broader examination of new Black European communities in the context of contemporary globalization with a specific focus on the formation of Black European consciousness or awareness, as well as to facilitate the theorizing of Black European culture and identity in newly global European societies. Importantly, the study is meant to inspire discourse around the contemporary condition of African Diaspora communities (external to the African American-centric transatlantic slave trade focus) and emergent transnational identities as African Diaspora communities are becoming established in European nations that are not traditionally associated with colonial/imperialist endeavors. The proposed position paper also reflects my interest in expanding the analysis in African Diaspora Studies to include lesser-explored diasporic spaces and a more thorough examination of the relationship between contemporary African Diaspora experience and the cultural dimensions of globalization.

Empirical Research Workshop: Potential Research Questions:

  1. What is the impact of African Diaspora migration on the current understanding of Black Europe?

  2. Is there an emerging Black European diasporic identity transcending nationality, as well as prior ethnicity-specific and class-based identities?

  3. How are class, citizenship and resident status implicated in the construction of Black European communities?

  4. Does the imperial status of a nation correspond with the extent of Black European
    inclusion in its larger national society?

  5. Can research on Black Europe occur without a reference to the African American experience or has Black Europe, despite highly significant historical and cultural differences, become so diasporically linked to the African American experience that comparison is inescapable even in its effort to articulate difference?

  6. Is the social and political project of solidarity that was present at the onset of other African Diaspora Studies fields at all significant, relevant or viable in the context of Black European Studies?

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