In the first decades of the Irish Free State, a Catholic-Gaelic Irishness was institutionalised as part of the new state’s nation-building project. One side-effect was the alienation of writers and artists who did not identify with the Ireland that was coming into being. Some chose to leave Ireland and go into external exile in Europe. Those who stayed lived on as ‘inner exiles’. In both cases, these exiles reflect the irony that Irish nationalism, which was a product of an ‘exilic culture’ responding to perceived English cultural dominance, created its own exilic others after independence. In this article, Michael Böss envisages a sociology of exile and illustrates this with examples from early twentieth-century Irish literature.

In The Novel and the Nation (1997), Gerry Smyth identifies an exilic ‘counter-tradition’ in the history of the Irish novel. This tradition, he claims, should be understood as an attempt to escape the limitations of a colonial heritage and the world view it gave rise to, especially ‘rigidly defined, oppositional categories – Irish and English, woman and man, national and alien’ (Smyth, 1997, 42). Exilic writing thus represented the beginnings of an enabling post-colonial discourse in which both Irishness and Englishness were seen as contingent and mutually implicated categories. The position of ‘exile’ provided a privileged, ‘ironic’ position from which the narrowness of the Irish-British imagination might be criticised. The implication was that exile was not only an experience of the physically displaced. It could also be the typical experience of those alienated from their homeland by narrow definitions of Irishness.

This ‘bilateral’ character of exile will receive special attention in this article. The purpose of the article is to discuss how a ‘sociology of exile’ may be applied to the study of the theme of exile in Irish literature, culture and history, and it argues that exilic bilateralism offers a particularly useful approach. It also argues that it should be related to the theme of ‘otherness’ since exile has always been one of the means by which differences and boundaries between self and other are created and maintained. After a discussion of major general theories and their relevance for a sociology of exile, the article will proceed to consider how Irish studies may be enriched from this approach.

The bilateral implications of exile

In his Biblical Theology of Exile (2002), Daniel L. Smith-Christopher discusses how biblical scholarship on the Babylonian exile of the Israelites (597,587-539 BC) in the 1990s has recently been transformed by insights derived from postmodern and postcolonial theory, refugee studies, disaster studies and the sociology of trauma. Conversely, he argues, the study of the Hebrew exile – and the writing which came out of it – may contribute to an understanding of the world we live in today, including the general psychological and cultural implications of living in an age when more individuals than ever before in history are bound to live as exiles, dispersed or banished from their territorial homelands by political persecution, religious discrimination, natural disaster or economic necessity.

Hence, not only Ezekiel and Lamentations – in other words the two books traditionally considered to be the main sources of the Exile – but most of the entire biblical narrative thus be understood in the light of the exilic experience. Postexilic ‘Judaism’ was more or less invented, or at least reconstructed, on the basis of a narrative which stretched back through the monarchical period and the Exodus to the Patriarchs.

Apart from reminding us that exile is an ancient phenomenon and not just a product of modernity and globalisation, Smith-Christopher gives us valuable insight into some fundamentals about the sociology of exile: firstly, exile is not just something that happens to individuals, but also to collectives such as nations. Secondly, representations of exile should be studied with a view to their broader political, social and cultural effects and implications. Thirdly, exile should be seen as significant for the construction of individual and collective (including national) identities. And, finally, the new biblical scholarship illustrates the ;bilateral; character of exile, in other words exile as a dialectical process affecting not only the banished – the group sitting by the ‘Rivers of Babylon’ – but also the group left behind in a devastated ‘Jerusalem’ deprived of its leadership. The Babylonian Exile, thus, produced both ‘The Book of Ezekiel’, written by structural exiles, and ‘The Lamentations’, the work of inner, residential exiles suffering – and ‘othered’ – by foreign occupation and hegemony. Before elaborating further on the bilateral character of exile, it is useful to take a critical look at the major existing theories of exile (see also Böss 2005).

Theories of exile

In his extensive survey of the historical examples of exile, Paul Tabori describes exile as a universal social, political, indeed even biological phenomenon. In his definition, Tabori does not distinguish between voluntary and involuntary exile since he considers exile first of all a psychological experience:

An exile is a person who is compelled to leave his homeland – though the forces that send him on his way may be political, economic, or purely psychological. It does not make an essential difference whether he is expelled by physical force or whether he makes the decision to leave without such an immediate pressure. (Tabori, 1972, 37)

Tabori’s psychological portrait of the exile seems slightly reductionist, however. Human beings respond to banishment and life in exile according to the particular circumstances and nature of their exile. Responses are dependent on the personal, spiritual, social and cultural resources of the exile himself/herself, for example the availability of a culture and/or literature of exile through which the exile may interpret his/her lot. Take, for example, the different ways in which Ovid and Seneca endured their exiles in Tomis and Corsica respectively. As Gareth Williams points out, Seneca took comfort in Stoic doctrine, seeing himself as a citizen of the universe and adopting its consoling topos that an exile makes his home in any land. Ovid’s lack of such philosophical resources, in contrast, made his exile unbearable, and his poems written in exile offer a study in melancholy, manic rage and utmost alienation.

If used carefully, however, it does make considerable sense to point out a few recurrent psychological features – among involuntary and territorial (or ‘structural’) exiles. The key feature, which distinguishes the exile from the voluntary emigrant and the cosmopolitan, is the divided nature of the exilic mentality: the exile’s nostalgia, constant hope for return and sense of having been dislocated and estranged and of living outside, not only home but also adopted country. Hallward Dahlie rightly characterises the exile as a ‘displaced individual’ who ‘continues to be at odds with both the world he has rejected and the one he has moved into’ (Dahlie, 1998, p.93). Comparing the rebel and the exile, Raymond Williams writes that the:

exile is as absolute as the rebel in rejecting the way of life of his society, but instead of fighting it he goes away. Usually, he will remain an exile, unable to go back to the society he has rejected or that has rejected him, yet equally unable to form important relationships with the society to which he has gone (Williams, 2001, qtd in Wagner 105).

Williams’ distinction between rebel and exile is untenable – in Irish history, for example, there are many rebellious exiles – but his perception of the exilic mentality is quite to the point, namely, as Peter Wagner puts it, that:

there is something unrecoverable, once one leaves one’s place of origin. The social bond cannot be recreated in the same way in which it existed before; the same density of social relations and the density of meaning in the world around oneself can no longer be reached (Williams, 2001, 105).

In his new social context, the exile will thus invariably experience social otherness.

Exile has always been one of the means – rituals, practices and institutions – by which differences and boundaries between self and other have been policed and maintained (cp. Strange & Bashford, 2003). A sociology of exile would therefore have to draw on various theories of power as, for example, Frank Parkin’s theory of social enclosure, according to which property, ethnic origin, language or religion are used by hegemonic groups as part of a strategy by which they acquire privileges for themselves by preventing ‘outsiders’ from getting access to material, social and cultural resources.

Highly relevant would also be Said’s theory of the association of exile and nationalism. Said regarded nationalism as developing from ‘a condition of estrangement’ and the construction of a ‘home created by a community of language, culture, and customs’ and thus, a way of fending off exile (Said, 2000, 176-77). The reverse side to nationalism, he argued, is that in time nationalism becomes a system which defines insiders and outsiders with reference to the values of the collective habitus it has defined. Nationalism, then, ends up producing its own exiles: those who are banished to a territory of non-belonging, whether physically or mentally. Said also has an eye for the proclivity of the nationalist in exile to solve his own mental predicament by seeing himself as part of a prospective, restored nation:

Exiles are cut off from their roots, their land, their past. They generally do not have armies or states, although they are often in search of them. Exiles feel, therefore, an urgent need to see themselves as part of a triumphant ideology or a restored people. (Said, 2000, 177)

Whereas such ‘defensive nationalism’ among exiles may lead to unattractive forms of ethnic self-assertion, exile nationalism also plays a positive role in ‘reconstitutive projects’, in other words in the construction of national history, the revival of endangered languages and the founding of national institutions such as universities and libraries (Said, 2000, 184). Exile has long been studied as a theme in modern literature, and such studies may greatly contribute to an understanding of the bilateral character of the exilic experience.

In the first systematic investigation of the theme of exile in modern literature, Writers in Exile: The Identity of Home in Modern Literature, Andrew Gurr sets out from the assumption that ‘[d]eracination, exile and alienation in varying forms are the conditions of existence for the modern writer the world over’ – in other words the late eighteenth-century into the first half of the nineteenth-century – but that exile in this period became particularly associated with colonialism (Gurr, 1981, 14). Writers in structural exile have frequently responded to their situation of voluntary or involuntary severance by writing books that express their search for identity through ‘self-discovery and self-realisation’, a search which may be summed up metaphorically as a ‘quest for home’ (Gurr, 1981, 14). The homelessness of the exiled writer, however, has often been an enabling factor. The writer felt an urge to recreate his own identity by writing about the ‘home’/homeland/colony he fled.

With Mary McCarthy, among others, Gurr distinguishes between expatriates and exiles, seeing the latter as banished victims tortured by their longing for return. He adds that, historically, expatriate writers had a tendency to be poets, who migrated from one metropolis to another, whereas exiles were often short story writers who migrated from provinces or colonies into metropolitan centres. He explains this difference as a result of the exilic writer’s need for an audience with whom he could communicate directly about his experiences. Another feature is the exilic writer’s tendency to claim the universality of the picture of the world he conveys. Since he is both engaged in reconstructing his own personal identity and in creating a work of art, the world he portrays may seem frozen in time and strangely at odds with present realities, especially if the society he left has undergone great social changes in the meantime:

All art, whether produced in physical exile, by internal exiles or by determined traditionalists, is static, backward-looking, concerned primarily with a stable image and identity in the individual or in his society at large. […] The expatriate seeks to identify or create a cultural history and therefore a cultural identity which is necessarily based on the past. […] And the exile is still more deliberately concerned to identify or even create a stasis, because home is a static concept rooted in the unalterable circumstances of childhood. Insecurity [of homelessness] prompts the writer to construct static worlds, to impose order on the dynamic, to see the dynamic as chaos. (Gurr, 1981, 23/4)

Thus, the exilic writer’s search for a secure, personal identity – in spite of his feeling of detachment – compels him to a retrospective fabrication of stable images of home from the components of personal memory. It may exactly be the constructed orderliness and universality of exilic narratives of ‘home’ which make them so attractive to modern readers, who are affected by forces of change within their own time and society and therefore yearn for depictions of a well-ordered world.

Although there may be some valuable insights in Gurr’s argument about the artistically enabling aspects of exile, one should be careful not to universalise this claim. Although exile may have been to the artistic benefit of some Irish writers – Edna O’Brien is a name which immediately suggests itself – it has also had traumatic effect for others, who have experienced loss of identity and artistic crisis, even silence, for example James Stephens and Denis Johnston (cp. Ward, 2002; Brown, 1995). This insight suggests that exile may be seen as a state of otherness which is often expressed by silence, and could thus invite us to examine how exilic cultures may not only produce exilic writing in the form of historiography and poetry – as did with the ancient Israelites – but also its own culture of silence, both abroad and at home.

Like Smith-Christopher, the Hispanicist Paul Ilie regards exile as a bilateral phenomenon (Ilie, 1980). He thinks that studies of exile have been too concerned with the political, demographic and economic circumstances of the expulsion of individuals and groups or the way in which they express their experiences in writings or by other means. Ilie therefore raises the question whether this concern has not led to the neglect of something fundamental about exile, namely its character as a reciprocal relationship:

Separation from one’s country means more than a lack of physical contact with land and houses. It is also a set of feelings and beliefs that isolate the expelled group from the majority. Once we acknowledge that exile is a mental condition more than a material one, that it removes people from other people and their way of life, then the nature of this separation remains to be defined not only as a unilateral severance, but as something more profound. Excision is a reciprocal relationship; to cut off one segment of a population from the rest is also to leave the larger segment cut off from the smaller one. (Ilie, 1980, 2)

‘Rarely has anyone wondered about the hollow left after the exodus, about the repercussions upon those citizens who shared émigré values but who remained in the homeland,’ Ilie claimed, and he stressed the fact that these ‘internal structures of exile’ are even more important than questions of geographical dislocation, territorial non-communication and physical separation (Ilie, 1980, 3). Exile produces its own mentality, which does not only manifest itself in responses to physical severance and territorial non-communication, but also as conflicts over values:

I would contend that exile is a state of mind whose emotions and values respond to separation and severance as conditions in themselves. To live apart is to adhere to values that do not partake in the prevailing values; he who perceives this moral difference and who responds to it emotionally lives in exile. (Ilie, 1980, 3)

Inner exiles are members of the residential population who stay at home, but who are affected by prevailing conditions in their society as much as those who are expelled by the hegemonic regime or who decide to emigrate for political and social reasons. The experience of inner exile has both psychological and cultural dimensions: It manifests itself as (1) a feeling of isolation (endured by individuals and groups in relation to the dominant group), and (2) a ‘partial asphyxiation of an entire culture’ (Ilie, 1980, 47). Inner exiles may, collectively, represent an exilic culture, which defines itself against the hegemonic – or ‘orthodox’ – culture. However, surprising as it may sound, the dominant culture may also be regarded as exilic in so far as it is constructed through the banishment of whole segments of the population. A state governed on exilic policies may thus be seen as a nation which is alienated from itself by seeking:

to compensate for the missing segment through self-sufficiency, which it accomplishes by negating the value of what has been lost […] Beyond those exclusionist centers lies the alienated periphery, where citizens for various reasons decide to maintain their residence even without benefiting from the fruits of the established orthodoxy. The tendencies of both segments, centripetal and centrifugal, interact within the same deprivations. Consequently they constitute and function as a single cultural rootedness […], despite their antagonisms, in distinction from the wandering cultural entity […]. But within the home culture, the further distinction between orthodox and dissenting segments remains, a division that may be described in yet other terms and that always exhibits the incompatibilities of the original, larger rift. (Ilie, 1980, 4)

Territorial banishment, political and religious oppression, the introduction of censorship laws, exclusivist definitions of communal and national belonging are the means and strategies by which rulers and ruling groups try to secure privileged access to power and valued resources. In the course of time, however, this situation is likely to lead to cultural, social and economic stagnation and inertia followed by a call for the ‘exiles’ return’, in other words for the reintegration of the groups which have suffered under or who have actively resisted hegemonic policies. This process, however, is seldom straightforward and without complications, partly due to the fact that structural exiles in time may become so distant from domestic realities that, even after their return, they find it difficult to communicate with their non-structural allies. The mentality of the structural exile, thus, will first have to be adjusted before a new process of social value formation may take place. Ilie’s theory of exilic bilateralism seems particularly relevant for a sociological approach to the study of exile in Irish studies.

Exile as a theme in Irish studies

There are elements of Ilie’s thesis which clearly bear the imprint of the particular subject of his study, Francoist authoritarianism. For obvious reasons his approach will have to be adapted to particular national and historical contexts to be useful to Irish studies. Although Ireland, for example, has had its own experiences of authoritarian rule of various kinds, none of them are immediately comparable to those of Spain 1939-1975.

Nevertheless, Ilie’s thesis of the bilateral character of exile is highly relevant for both historical and literary studies. Particularly fruitful, it seems to this writer, would be studies of nationalist Ireland from 1922 to the 1960s as a paradigmatic exilic culture in two senses: both as a historical product of political exile, anti-colonialism and socio-cultural alienation and – once victorious after 1992 – a culture marginalising and alienating its own others, producing its own inner exiles. Late 19th-century novels – not only the ‘priestly fictions’ (cp. Candy,1995), but also the novels of Protestant Irish women novelists – demonstrate, for example, how old traditions of political, social and cultural exclusion came to the surface of literary discourse in a period which saw the rise of a new wave of identity politics, leading to the re-drawing of the boundaries of Irishness and the introduction of new criteria for in- and ex-clusion in and from the nation (leaving new subcategories of exile in its wake). Instead of seeing O’Casey’s exile as just a physical and intellectual ‘response’ to the ‘new orthodoxy’ of the Free State, for example – as Cairns and Richards appear to do (Cairns & Richards, 1998, 131) – exile should be read as a theme already articulated in his Abbey plays at a time when the writer’s vision of Ireland was tainted by his personal experience as a member of Ireland’s small community of marginalised and disenchanted socialist republicans.

Patrick Ward (2002) suggests that we take a multidisciplinary approach to the study of representations of exile, emigration and internal marginalisation in an international, comparative context. Ward wants us as literary and cultural critics and historians to deal discriminately with various types of exile, but also to help us ‘dispel, demythologise and place into meaningful perspective’ the actual, historical and sociological, background of various forms of ‘absence’ (Ward, 2002, 242). Ward thus aligns himself with Seamus Deane (following Said), who is critical of the ‘fetish of exile, alienation and dislocation’ in writers like Joyce and Beckett (Ward, 2002, 58). Joyce’s example illustrates the way in which the notion of exile in this period began to acquire a number of new, modern meanings derived from recent philosophy, psychology and sociology. But in order to understand how the experience of existential otherness was interpreted in exilic terms, we would have to look at a broader socio-cultural context than the one outlined by Ward.

The emergence of modern perceptions of exile was the result of nineteenth-century biographical and socio-historical experiences and the widespread perception in the following century of a loss of tradition and ‘home’ (cp. Wagner, 2001). Large-scale external and internal migration, the emergence of nationalism and, from 1914 and on, the experience of extended warfare combined in altering the way in which people viewed and could view the past. Experiences of physical displacement, the loss of cultural roots and a sense of ontological insecurity gave rise to nostalgia, in other words a longing for a ‘home’ and a ‘past’, in other words for origins, continuity and coherence.

Intellectually, nostalgia was expressed both in neo-romantic critiques of modernity and in various forms of nationalism. Often, the two would be combined, as it did in the case of Ireland. At that time, however, nationalism was also felt as a kind of remedy to modernity. For nationalism held the promise of re-rooting and re-directing social and political life without forfeiting the material benefits of modernisation. In the state envisioned by nationalists, nostalgia would wither away for two reasons: The longing for the past would be dulled by the experience of social, political and material progress, and the sense of continuity with the past would be restored because nationalism re-wrote the past into the present. Nationalism (which might be seen as a response to the fear of ‘homelessness’) offered cultural and existential anchoring. However, at the very moment when nationalism appeared to provide a solution for the uprooting and fragmentation of social and cultural life, the break-out of a period of extended warfare, first in Europe and then on a global basis, showed that there was not any solution to such problems, even though a variety of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes acted as if there were.

Admittedly, the First World War was a war fought in the spirit of exalted nationalism. Nevertheless, it inaugurated a counter-narrative, which was to inform twentieth-century philosophy, literature and intellectual life in general: the story of the shattering of ‘tradition’ and, consequently the loss of certainty and absolute truth in existential, psychological, epistemological, moral and linguistic terms. In modernist thinking, ‘exile’ became a metaphor for the human condition and became part of a discourse which questioned, among others, notions of cultural roots, the Dasein of the world and the unity of individual consciousness.

In modernist philosophy, literature and art, however, the exilic perspective found pessimistic as well as optimistic expressions. Pessimistic versions rejected nostalgia and thus the possibility that metaphysical and cultural notions of origin, presence and authenticity could be restored. Optimistic expressions, in contrast, translated nostalgia into forms of social utopianism and liberal, individualist philosophies predicated on the experience of having escaped from the nightmare of history and the restrictions of traditional beliefs.

Both versions, in various combinations, are represented in twentieth-century Irish writing, criticism as well as literature. The works of Irish writers, most of whom spent extended periods of their lives as expatriates or as inner exiles in Ireland, take much of their colour from the writers’ experience of alienation from the infant Irish state and the regime that had created it. Almost all of them were personal victims of literary censorship in their homeland and distanced themselves from the Catholic and socially conservative identity code which had been vindicated after 1922. The nature of their exile, therefore, had personal as well as social and political dimensions. But there was more to it than a rejection of a particular regime. For this regime represented a general European tendency to stem the tide of modernity. Thus, there was a philosophical dimension to their choice to live as expatriate, social and cultural exiles.

Ward describes these writers’ choice as an ‘escape’ rather than as ‘exile’ (Ward, 2002, 242), seeing their self-designated exile as merely an aesthetic gesture. But this approach seriously limits an understanding of Irish modernism. Even though it does make considerable sense to read the history of Irish literary modernism against colonial and postcolonial experiences and legacies, the broader – international, social and intellectual – context must be considered too.

Exile and globalisation

A similarly broad approach is crucial for an appreciation of the way in which new perceptions of exile and otherness have emerged in the context of late-twentieth-century globalisation and new patterns of migration. The Irish social and cultural critic Fintan O’Toole has consistently dealt with the changing character of Irish emigration and exile in contemporary Ireland. In an essay on ‘Emigration and Irish Culture’, he reflects on how the twin concepts of emigration and exile, once ‘at the very heartbeat of Irish culture’, have lost their earlier meaning and relevance today (O’Toole, 1996, 158). In the light of globalisation and the appearance of a multicentred world, the disappearance of the British Empire, the collapse of church authority, and the dissolution of traditional anti-theses – for example, between rural-urban and, British-Irish – there is no longer an Irish ‘home’ to leave, or an Irish identity to lose. In such a world, there are neither beginnings nor ends – only movement, only distances to cover. Now that traditional notions of exile have become obsolete and irrelevant, however, a new meaning suggests itself: exile has become ‘a prism through which the diverse social forces within Ireland are separated and revealed’ (O’Toole, 1996, 174).

O’Toole argues that the old notion of exile assumed a perception of Ireland as a culturally homogenous, spiritual homeland and saw the emigrant as trading a fixed identity for an anonymous and impermanent one. However, today an Irish person may feel in exile when ‘at home’ in Ireland and instead take his bearings from a non-territorial Ireland made up of ‘songlines’, ‘road markings’ and ‘ancient footsteps’ left from the journeys of earlier generations of Irish emigrants. However, because globalisation is not simply another term for ‘Americanisation’, but a two-way process which ‘affects different cultures in different ways’, the Irish have, as a result of their long history of emigration, succeeded in putting their own mark on the modern world (O’Toole, 1996, 174). This, paradoxically, enables them to retain some sense of identity and difference where others are drowned by cultural sameness and forgetfulness. The ways in which Irish identity will be articulated today and in the future, O’Toole predicts, is determined by a combination of the ‘songlines’ from the past and the creative re-imaginings of contemporary writers in Ireland and the Irish diaspora. In this process, ‘the Irish abroad will have just as much of a claim on the creation of Irish culture as do the Irish at home [1]’ ((O’Toole, 1996, 175).

A similar line of argument is heard in Richard Kearney’s book from 1988, Across the Frontiers: Ireland in the 1990s. In his introduction, Kearney discusses how Irishness, far from being a matter of a static national essence, as it was later claimed by nationalists, used to be a ‘dynamic cultural identity’ which developed in an ‘exploratory dialogue’ with other cultures (Kearney, 1988, 21). Irish cultural history reads like a ‘litany of intellectual migrations which have established extensive associations between Ireland and the wider world’ (Kearney, 1988, 21). Under the impact of colonialism, famine and emigration, however, the Irish became obsessed with their enmity with England and therefore developed an insular and monolithic notion of Irish identity. Over recent decades, however, due to political developments and the influence of the communications revolution, the Irish have moved beyond such narrow notions and have begun to recognize the plurality of their cultural heritage.

Kearney invokes Joyce as one of Ireland’s many ‘migrant minds’ who had a keen eye for culture as a ‘bringer of plurabilities’ rather than as closure and who saw Europe as ‘a map without frontiers, a free space of exploration and peregrination, a place where Irish myth and memory could engage in dynamic dialogue with the cultures of other lands’ (Kearney, 1988, 21/2). The vision of Irish culture as a blending of national and international idioms was forged by Irish writers like Joyce and other artists who have had the opportunity of looking back on Ireland from abroad:

This mixing of the ‘foreign with the familiar’, to borrow Joyce’s phrase, is witnessed in most art forms – in the music of Irish groups such as the Chieftains, Van Morrison, The Pogues or U2; in the films of Irish directors such as Jordan, Murphy, Quinn, Comerford and O’Connor; the writings of Irish authors such as Heaney, Banville, Durcan, Ní Dhomnaill and Bolger; and the visual art of an emerging generation which includes Ballagh, Coleman, Elanna O’Kelly and Dorothy Cross. (Kearney, 1988, 22/3)

In a later chapter, Kearney interviews one of these ‘migrant minds’, film director Neil Jordan. Jordan first explains how, in the early stage of his artistic career, he had been unable to cope with traditional notions of Irishness, because they meant nothing to his personal experience of growing up in suburban Dublin in the 1960s.

Unable to identify with the narratives that provided earlier generations with a sense of belonging, Jordan explains how he turned to film making as an ‘escape’ and a ‘liberation’ from the need to deal with ‘crippling’ issues of national identity. Film making made him instead free to explore questions of a personal identity because the visual arts were free from the ‘constraints and pressures of our literary tradition’ (Jordan qtd. in Kearney, 1988, 197). Jordan’s personal and symbolic ‘exile’ into a new artistic medium – and his encounter with the world outside Ireland – had the ironic and paradoxical effect of bringing him back to the question of collective identity provided with a new view on Irishness. As Jordan now sees it, true Irishness combines many of the aspects of exile discussed so far in this essay: exile as journey, exile as subversion, exile as exclusion, exile as political and social alienation, exile as existential homelessness, and, finally, exile as the necessary position of the artist, whether resident or expatriate.


Jordan describes postnational exile by drawing implicitly on all these Irish traditions of exilic otherness, ending up affirming the possibility of developing a kind of personal nationhood which is existentially and psychologically stabilising in a postmodern, globalised world. Jordan may be said to express a view of the modern condition as an experience of constantly being on the move between Babylon and Jerusalem. Thus, it is still to artists and writers that we should turn if we want to gain insight into the bilateral character of exile as a state of otherness which historically has taken many forms depending on political, social and cultural contexts. Hence, fundamentally, a sociology of exile must be historically situated.


  1. The importance of the dialectical relationship between the island of Ireland and the Irish diaspora, the world of ‘Irish America’ in particular, for the rise of a new sense of cultural Irishness may be exemplified in politics by the amended Article 3 of the Constitution of Ireland, in literature by the acclaim of young, transatlantic writers such as Michael Collins and Colum McCann, and in popular culture by Irish-American bands like Solas and by the Riverdance phenomenon.


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