Justine Nakase: Hyphenating Irishness: performing Irish identity in an intercultural Ireland

At a time when Ireland is becoming an increasingly diverse nation, what does it now mean to be Irish? By 2011, the population of non-Irish nationals had increased 143% in 9 years, and 10% of primary school children in 2014 were of non-Irish origin. These numbers do not even reflect Irish individuals with mixed Irish or minority ethnic backgrounds. My research explores the intersection of race, identity and performance in contemporary Ireland, looking particularly at mixed race and second-generation Irish individuals and the ways that singular identities can speak to broader discourses of identity and belonging.

Performance Studies allows us to understand popular culture and everyday life as meaningful expressions of national identity. Irish theatre, St Patrick’s Day parades, pop music, and sport help me to investigate the ways in which Irish national identity might be changing for upcoming generations. Phil Lynnott and Paul McGrath, both from hybrid or hyphenated Irish backgrounds, already have a place among Ireland’s leading cultural figures.

As the mother of an Asian-Irish daughter, my own family is redefining what being Irish might look like or mean. I am passionate about using my research to advocate for open and inclusive understandings of what it is to be Irish, and show that Ireland can accommodate and incorporate these new communities, making the critical shift from ‘non-Irish’ to New Irish.