Politics and Performance in Contemporary Northern Ireland by John P. Harrington
In the charged political atmosphere of Northern Ireland, where two national identities compete for recognition and support, symbolic manifestations of the struggle are everywhere evident. They continue beyond as well as within the confines of the theatre. Stage actors and social actors, playwrights and politicians, give performances scripted to confirm and consolidate their particular definition of political reality. In this interdisciplinary volume, scholars from Northern Ireland, the United States, Canada and England examine the junctures of politics and performance in contemporary Northern Ireland. Four of the chapters are about performances that are intended primarily for live theatre or television. The remaining five describe dramatic struggles played out in the pubs and drinking clubs of Protestant Ulster, local district councils, political organizations, the police force, and even the memories of young people. Symbolic struggle is particularly important during the period of fragile cease-fires and brokered agreements in Northern Ireland at the close of the 20th century. With the diminution of paramilitary action, more attention focuses on symbolic performances. Each of the nine essays in this book tells the reader in its own distinct voice how the story of political conflict is constructed, manipulated, portrayed and remembered. By juxtaposing essays on theatrical performance alongside social scientific analyses, the editors hope to remind the reader of the reflexivity of political life in Northern Ireland. Taken together, the essays show how individuals have been shaped by the historical context of the Troubles and how they have used their performances, in the theatre and on the stage of daily life, to define identities, reinforce ideologies and build institutional support.