Confusing Culture and Politics: Ulster Scots Culture and Music

Martin Dowling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Northern Ireland of the mid-1990s, many were caught off-guard by the comet-like arrival of a previously unarticulated Ulster Scots identity, replete with its own folk traditions. The article exploits the author’s position as Traditional Arts Officer of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland from 1998 until 2003 to offer an auto-ethnographic reflection on the literature on cultural politics in Northern Ireland since the outbreak of the Troubles, informed by extensive fieldwork with arts administrators and with contemporary Ulster Scots musicians. The article gives a close reading and historical contextualisation of the Ulster-Scots musical revue On Eagle's Wing, which was developed during this period. The article uses the concept of "suture" articulated by Lacan and developed by Laclau, Mouffe, and Žižek to explain both the potential for Ulster Scots culture to enter political discourse out of a seeming vacuum and its subsequent difficulties, offering an original interpretation of the role of culture in the contemporary trajectory of Northern Ireland politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-80
Number of pages30
JournalNew Hibernia Review
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007


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