Identity as a Cognitive Code: The Northern Irish Paradigm

Ailbhe Ó Corráin

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    Although the notion of identity is one of the central concerns of the human and social sciences and has been studied from a wide variety of perspectives, the concept itself evades ready definition. Furthermore, although the problem of identity within Northern Ireland has generated a vast amount of literature, much of this is subjective, contradictory and confusing. The aim of this talk is to propose a way of looking objectively at the notion of identity and, if possible, to draw some general conclusions from the Northern Irish experience. The fundamental premise is that if identity carries meaning, then it must possess some sort of structure. Applying the principles and concepts of linguistic analysis, this paper suggests that identity is a cognitive code, similar in structure to other codes such as natural language. A model is proposed by which the notion of identity may then be identified, quantified and analysed. The suggestion is that if identity is indeed a semiotic code, we should be able to examine it from the point of view of structural analysis. While the paper focuses in particular on identity within the context of Northern Ireland, the hope is that the principles and methodological framework which are outlined may have more general applicability.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)35-48
    JournalCultural Identities and National Borders
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2009


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