Seamus Deane and Palestine

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Seamus Deane, who died on May 12 last, was Ireland’s greatest literary critic since the days of Yeats and O’Faolain.   Like them, he was not only a poet, a novelist, a teacher and a scholar, but an intellectual. Universities are full of academics.  Only a handful of them can be called intellectuals, who generalise out from their professional expertise to discuss issues of wide social and political import, and who do so in public, for a public, in the process forming a public. In this, Seamus was in the same company as Judith Butler or Pierre Bourdieu.

Seamus was probably the most famous of our AfP boycott signatories. He did not write at length about Palestine, but his devastating analyses of the relations of culture and power in colonial Ireland broadened out into an extraordinary instance of contemporary anti-imperialist critique which lacerated the ‘Washington consensus’, of which American support for Israel was a crucial part.

Seamus was a good friend of Edward Said, and wrote four superb essays on him. Said in turn greatly admired the Field Day project of which Seamus was one of the leaders. In his death notice, Seamus and his family asked for donations to be sent to UNICEF’s Palestine operation.  With Seamus Deane’s passing, radical dissent in Ireland has lost one of its greatest proponents.  

Conor McCarthy