Introduction: Ireland: ‘A Supreme Postcolonial Instance’?
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The critical pioneer of contemporary postcolonial studies, Edward W. Said, notes in his introduction to Orientalism that ‘what I learned and tried to present was that there was no such thing as a merely given, or simply available, starting point: beginnings have to be made for each project in such a way as to enable what follows from them’ (1978: 16). Thus, in a critical survey of Irish postcolonial studies, there is no natural starting point. Equally, when I trace the genealogical roots of theoretical postcolonial studies to Said’s 1978 intervention, it is a matter of contingent selection. There is no natural beginning, or for that matter consecrated telos, in the discourse of critical analysis; the contingency of critical interrogation is matched by the contingency of the selection of texts. My ‘beginnings’ are dictated by a conviction that Said’s Orientalism provided, and provides, an extraordinary stimulus and precedent to more recent Irish postcolonial criticism. In asserting Said’s precedence I am not diminishing the import of Atlantic historiography; subaltern studies; Marxism; feminism or post-structuralism or postmodernism, but, as Luke Gibbons remarks in discussing the legacy of Edmund Burke: ‘An exemplary text or event, to adapt Seamus Deane’s formulation, is both a culminating moment in a process or series of events already under way, but is also a disruptive, originating moment in the subversion of that process, an omen of things to come’ (2003b: 5).
KeywordsModernisation Theory Irish Study Irish Context Postcolonial Theory Colonial Study
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