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Visions of Empire and Other Imaginings

Cinema, Ireland and India 1910-1962


Jeannine Woods

This book was shortlisted for the ESSE Junior Scholars book award for Cultural Studies in English, 2012

Since its inception cinema has served as a powerful medium that both articulates and intervenes in visions of identity. The experiences of British colonialism in Ireland and India are marked by many commonalities, not least in terms of colonial and indigenous imaginings of the relationships between colony or former colony and imperial metropolis. Cinematic representations of Ireland and India display several parallels in their expressions and contestations of visions of Empire and national identity. This book offers a critical approach to the study of Ireland’s colonial and postcolonial heritage through a comparative exploration of such filmic visions, yielding insights into the operations of colonial, nationalist and postcolonial discourse.
Drawing on postcolonial and cultural theory and employing Bakhtin’s concept of dialogism, the author engages in close readings of a broad range of metropolitan and indigenous films spanning an approximately fifty-year period, exploring the complex relationships between cinema, colonialism, nationalism and postcolonialism and examining their role in the (re)construction of Irish and Indian identities.


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Orientalism, Celticism and the Emergence of Cinema [Orientalism is] a distribution of geopolitical awareness into aesthetic, scholarly, economic, sociological, historical and philological texts … it is, rather than expresses, a certain will or intention to understand, in some cases to control, manipulate, even to incorporate, what is a manifestly dif ferent (or alternative and novel) world; … Orientalism is – and does not simply represent – a considerable dimension of modern political intellectual culture, and as such has less to do with the Orient than it does with ‘our’ world.1 Since its inception, cinema has proved highly ef fective in the representation of themes which figure large in colonial and later in anti-colonial national- ist discourse. Representations of racial, religious and ethnic dif ferences, of oppositions between East and West or metropolis and periphery, tradition and modernity, cultural or national authenticity and degeneration/infiltra- tion, have featured significantly in imperial and anti-imperial representa- tions of Britain, Ireland and India at various points in cinematic history. Exploring the dialogic relationships between cinema and colonialism at discursive and representational levels requires attention to the develop- ment and consolidation of Orientalism and Celticism in relation to India and Ireland during the nineteenth century. This chapter examines the development of Orientalist and Celticist discourses which would wield a major inf luence on both metropolitan and non-metropolitan cinematic representations. 1 Said, Orientalism, 12. 10 Chapter 1 The Development of Orientalism and Celticism Said describes Orientalism as a discourse which developed in Europe from the Enlightenment onwards and which f lourished...

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