Selbstbild, Fremdbild, and the Construction of Northern Irish Identity
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Identity defined a primary source of division in Northern Ireland during the Troubles: British or Irish, Protestant, or Catholic? In the past, identity was viewed primarily as an internal characteristic, chosen by a society’s individuals or groups with little outside intervention. Rusciano argues that a newly emergent world opinion changes this process. In the present global environment, national or regional identity grows out of a negotiation between an area’s group consciousness (Selbstbild) and its reputation in world opinion (Fremdbild). Other writers note that as a consequence of the Cold War’s end, the identification of Unionists with the Western powers and Republicans with national liberation movements became irrelevant. However, identity in Northern Ireland was now affected by their global reputation as the scene of continuous violent conflict. This reputation affected the images both sides constructed for themselves, making the negotiation of identity more difficult, and suitable for change.