Updated August 18

I was unable to listen to Dr. Cherie Ann Turpin’s podcast on August 15 (selling my house and moving across the state took a big chunk out of my life that day!), but now that I have listened to it and absorbed it a bit, here are some thoughts:

Dr. Turpin and Adrian Ayers, her research assistant, both seem to be coming to this Gabriel Byrne Book Project with a keen interest in the ideas of  cultural and racial difference and cultural exclusion, in addition to the primary focus of cultural hybridity. I was not thinking about these issues so much, but now that they have put them into some context, I find them relevant in this discussion.

The description of Gabriel Byrne as “alleged Cultural Ambassador” needs some explaining, I am afraid, but I did understand the idea of actors and other artists serving as “de facto cultural ambassadors,” whether they wanted to take on those roles or not. Of course, in the case of Mr. Byrne, this was a formal role he accepted with apparent relish and he achieved a great deal during his stint as Cultural Ambassador for Ireland. You can read all of the blog postings here at the Byrneholics website for evidence of his accomplishments in this unique role.

The notion of “commodity” in the arts is an intriguing one and something that Mr. Byrne obviously understands. He has been talking about the link between business and the arts for a long time. However, I am not certain I have ever considered him or his work as “commodities,” but that probably points more to my possible over-romanticizing the nature of the artist and his creative process than anything else.

The idea of the “artist as émigré” has an almost mystical power and conjures up everyone from Aristotle to T. S. Eliot. How individuals integrate their origins with where they end up in the world is part of what “cultural hybridity” is about and this aspect of the discussion regarding Gabriel Byrne will be intriguing, of course.

Dr. Turpin did a great job of explaining aspects of the research process and what a critical role cultural identity can play in this process. She also noted that it was important to begin looking at an artist’s work–books, films, official roles–in terms of its structure. How did the process develop? The “how” is the important place to start, not the political messages that might be derived. And it is important not to get caught up in one’s own politics when engaged in research like this. Not an easy achievement, surely, but required when looking at issues of subversion, intentional cultural coding, and other aspects of an artist’s creative output.

Apparently Dr. Turpin is also interested in a project on Edna O’Brien. How cool is that!?

Adrian Ayers noted that Gabriel Byrne is an example of cultural hybridity–he is a hybrid of Irishness and American-ness. This kind of hybrid is not always obvious at first. And often, when we think of cultural hybridity, we think of mixed race. Ayers noted (and I am paraphrasing here): “I can’t change my color, but he can change his accent.” So what are the assumptions we have about identity? If you can change your accent, can you change your identity? This is not an option for people of color, obviously. And yet Adrian Ayers noted that he has changed aspects of his identity over the  years (from colored to black to multi-cultural; from funk to R&B to a mix; etc.).

Cultural hybridity also  involves the economics of cultural production and the politics of cultural production, as well as, in some cases, an inability, and in other cases, a refusal, to be placed in a “box.” Think about that in terms of Gabriel Byrne and now you can see where the road might lead…because Americans like to categorize people.

Cultural identity plus multi-nationality: Gabriel Byrne sees identity as a process–flexible, fluid, interchangeable. And in terms of hybridity, language is a marker. He speaks and has taught Gaelic. Dr. Turpin notes that mastery of another language makes one suspect in the United States.

And then the discussion moved in a direction new to me: the equating of Black and Irish. A book was mentioned: “White Britain/Black Ireland.” Black and Irish intermarriage was noted. At some point, the Irish became “white.” This is all new territory for my understanding of Irish culture and history, but the ongoing legacy of discrimination against Irish and Black people is not new at all. The equating of them socially and racially by dominant white culture is something Mr. Byrne mentioned in his radio interview with Leonard Lopate as he talked about the MOMA Film Festival. So it is time to hit the history books, folks, and see what this is all about.

Finally, the influence of the Catholic Church as an important issue for Mr. Byrne was touched on. Dr. Turpin noted that one of the last projects Gabriel supported as Cultural Ambassador for the Imagine Ireland program was his direction of Mannix Flynn’s play James X and she surmises that he pissed some people off by doing this. I’ve thought that as well. But I’m glad he did it (the play, not the pissing off. Well, maybe both!).

So, that’s a bit about the blogcast. I do wish some of you had called in a question. I am sorry I was unable to participate myself.

As Dr. Turpin noted, she plans to interview some of us “Gabriel Byrne Fans” for a roundtable in September, so you can stay tuned for that and be thinking about questions you would like to ask during that blogcast.

And I thank her for her shout-out at the end of the interview. I think this book is going to be enlightening and intriguing. She and Adrian Ayers are at the beginning of their research process. They have a lot to learn about Gabriel Byrne and I’m thinking they will have a lot to teach us about him when they are done!

Gabriel Byrne and Mannix Flynn

Original posting August 14

You are invited to a radio interview on Wednesday, August 15, 7:00 pm (Eastern time USA) at BlogTalkRadio!

Cultural Hybridity, Race, Gender: Research on Gabriel Byrne by At the Edge An Afrofuturist Salon

This interview is hosted by Dr. Cherie Ann Turpin, who is working on a book about Gabriel Byrne.

From Dr. Turpin’s website:

Taking a brief break from Afrofuturism, this episode features an informal discussion between me and my research assistant and former student Adrian Ayers regarding ongoing research for one of my book projects, ”Black Irish,” cultural hybridity, and the cinematic body: a study on Gabriel Byrne. Just how did I, as an African American woman whose research and publications has tended to center on gender studies, literary criticism, post-colonialism, and the African Diaspora, end up doing both a book on Afrofuturism and a book on Gabriel Byrne, a White male actor from Ireland? It’s not as far-fetched and unlikely as one might assume when it comes to understanding the politics of cultural production, icon-making, gender, and race. Tune in and call in with your questions.

You may recall Gabriel Byrne, during one of his presentations as Cultural Ambassador for Ireland, talking about the meaning of “diaspora”: the scattering of seeds. And you know he has been thinking about this concept, as well as ideas of identity and cultural displacement and methods to help artists connect with their audiences in creative and productive ways. So indeed! Dr. Turpin’s project is not far-fetched at all.

Be sure to tune into the blogcast and you can speak with Dr. Turpin during the interview at (347) 215-7908.

This should be an enlightening and intriguing conversation. Think about questions you might like to ask and call them in.

And stay tuned for more from Dr. Turpin about this creative project and the always amazing Gabriel Byrne!


  1. Arf ! That’s 1:00 in the morning in France! :-o

  2. How was it?

  3. I’d love to know that myself, Lila. If you missed it, go click on Stella’s link and download it–or better yet, go to iTunes and subscribe to my show. I’m really looking forward to hearing your voices and talking about what draws you to Gabriel Byrne’s work!

  4. And just as a followup: as I put together the panel discussion format for all “Byrneholics” who plan to participate in the radio show in Sept, if you would like certain topics or subtopics to be included in the discussion, if you have specific questions, or if you would like to followup with topics discussed in Wednesday’s show, please forward them to Stella, or you can forward them to me via twitter @drturpin. If you want my email, follow me then DM me on twitter (trying to avoid spambots hitting my email from Google so I’m not posting it here). I will most likely extend the length of the program to accommodate everyone who wants to be involved. Thanks again to Stella for being savvy and “on-it” with regard to getting the word out about the show and the upcoming book! You continue to inspire me!

  5. Kim Serrahn /Connell

    I didn’t think it was all that good. Her assistant said some things I didn’t like about Mr.B. The guy called him the alleged Cultural Ambassador. It seem that it was more about her then anything else. But this is my own opinion.

  6. I have to confess that I was in the process of moving on the night of the blogcast and then driving across my very large state of Texas all the next day (Thursday) and trying to move in to my new place the day after that (Friday)! But I’m settled a bit now and preparing to listen to the blogcast and get caught up right now! Then I will come back here and comment.


  7. Thanks, Stella, for a fair, balanced review of my show. My show format is not perfect by a long shot, but it improves with each episode. Kim, I hear you loud and clear and of course, I do appreciate criticism. Just to clarify, the show needed to cover my own journey towards this book, how I came to my decision to spend research energy on Gabriel Byrne, and my justification for doing it–as someone who does African-Diasporic studies, it would see sightly odd to non-academics (and some academics I might add) that an African American woman scholar would be writing about a White Irish/White Irish American man. I am, in other words, addressing those questions many folk out of politeness are reluctant to ask me, plus it will be addressed in the introductory chapter. You also received a nice big slice of my theoretical approach, although not the entirety of it. This is definitely a work that, as Stella notes, does not “romanticize” Mr. Byrne, though I see nothing wrong with folk choosing to do that within their own space/website. I’m sure he would be flattered like most men. My approach, however, must be free of romanticisaton out of my obligation towards a certain scholarly rigour. Stella’s support and her knowledge about scholarly research must be noted–her review reflects such knowledge. I’m definitely retweeting this page, by the way.

  8. I’m very excited about Dr. Turpin’s upcoming book about Mr. Byrne, and enjoyed her podcast. It will be interesting to see how the subjects she discussed will be translated in relation to Gabriel and his body of work, his life, and his philosophy. He’s very proud of his “Irishness”, as he calls it, and very adamant that he is “an Irish man living and working in America”. And as someone who is so very passionate about the Irish ‘identity’ portrayed in America and around the world, he is the perfect subject for a project such as this. Kudos to Dr. Turpin for taking on this project…..
    -Scarlett (@gbcaramia on Twitter)

  9. Pingback: Fair, balanced review of my latest BlogTalkRadio show from @byrneholics – Research on Gabriel Byrne | afro-futurism scholar

  10. I managed to listen to the podcast last night.

    It was a very interesting podcast.

    Cultural hybridity ,in my case, which I am not sure is relevant, but I will mention it anyway. I was not in touch with people from my country of origin until three years ago. So, I was not in touch with that side of my identity until then.

    I had not considered Gabriel Byrne as an example of cultural hybridity until now. I will continue my comment later.

    and I have been told I have an En

  11. With regards to accents, once a person from one country of origin lives in another country they may end up having another accent. This does not necessarily mean they have assumed another identity. Or they may retain their accent.

    If we consider identity as a whole, we all have several

    Cultural identity- does that mean your own culture and/ or your adopted country. As Gabriel says it’s flexible does this mean having your original cultural identity as well as adopting the culture of the country you live in as well? Hybridity and languages. Well, Gaelic is Gabriel Byrne’s native language and if I am not mistaken he studied Spanish- is this cultural hybridity as well? Does
    this mean if we are not from a European culture, we are adopting a European culture by studying European languages? Some of us don’t feel we have sense of our own culture and decide to learn our native languages to get a sense of our culture.

    The influence of the Catholic church- I agree that putting on the play was a good idea. It would have angered some people but it’s important to highlight the issues raised.

    If cultural hybridity means not putting things in a box,
    then that’s a good thing.

    I don’t know if what I have written makes sense or is relevant. They are just some thoughts that I have.

  12. Hi T Sidhu,

    You bring up excellent points, and yes, taking on languages are part of that hybridity I’ve discussed, and in fact, we might think of identity itself as not so much a stable category but as a process, as noted by Stuart Hall, or performative, as noted by Judith Butler. Given such parameters, one may come to understand that cultural or ethnic identities are not stable, and I am including those cultures and ethnicities that have been historically assumed to be singular and perhaps assumed to be empowered as hegemonic influences, or in simple terms, dominant by virtue of their status, economically and politically.

  13. Indeed, recognition of cultural hybridity is an acknowledgement that there is no box.

  14. I think I recall the interview discussing accents as well. I watched a recent interview he did discussing this topic. Gabriel mentioned that in the United States you are considered as the other when you have an accent, would you agree, Dr Turpin?

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