ACIS Logo Thinking the Border: Partition and Passage in Contemporary Ireland

“There are other passages” ~Judith Butler, Precarious Life

Though the geographical space of the island of Ireland is constant, the 1922 border utterly changed its “spatiality‚” the plateaus of nation, of the political, of place and temporality and located identity. Whither Ireland in the 21st Century? In contrast to de Valera and Yeats’ nationalist visions, in Hume’s view Ireland is now “very open,‚” and, in Kearney’s, this geography actually transcends itself, is no longer “contained within the frontiers of [the] island‚” but “extend[s] well beyond the limits of the Nation State[s].” This trans-transit status, provoked by Ireland’s location as by its peculiar anomalousness and its anomalous history of colonization and partition, is evident and also reified in moments such as the referenda on gay marriage or the more recent repeal of the 8th amendment. How might we (re)comprehend today‚’ Ireland as a transatlantic site between Europe and the U.S. (Desmond), one only very recently defined and transformed by migration to (rather than from) the island? What, too, of the relationship of “Irelands” north and south or the impacts of a development like #Brexit particularly vis-a-vis the North? And, what does the (continuing) partitioned status of the island have to do with all of this? As Terence Brown suggested in “Translating Ireland,” this presentation posits Ireland’s partition as a critical site of translation, transit and transfer as well as one of limitation and compression, of confinement and neo-coloniality. In it I think through the relationship between partition, (post)coloniality and (post)nationalism, that is, the meanings of the Irish border(lands) and the longue dure of division. Here, I suggest that, as with Derrida’s “two directions of meaning” (1978 291), in the deconstructive flux and tense intense searching of the event of national rupture, two directions of breakage transpire: injurious, traumatic force, and translation and transformation, openings, passages. Thus, the location of rupture is not merely destructive and subjugatory, it is productive too: borders drive wedges between places and populations formerly allied and they found a continued continuing continuous point of connection, enable contact and generativity across the newly forged differences, create a “spaced” geographic transnationalism. In terms of methodology, the analysis is guided and informed by the work of Irish commentators and by the body of relevant work in Partition/Border Studies, postcolonial and poststructural theory and Irish Studies.