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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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Imperial Imaginings The cinema, as the world’s storyteller par excellence, was ideally suited to relay the projected narratives of nations and empires … The cinema’s institutional ritual of gathering a community – spectators who share a region, language and culture – homologizes, in a sense, the symbolic gathering of the nation.1 If cinema’s role in reinforcing and reimagining empire and imperial con- sciousness highlights the polylogic and multidiscurive nature even of repre- sentations which might appear monolithic in their rehearsal of imperialist ideology, metropolitan cinema also illuminates divergent and shifting relationships between cinematic representations and dif fering strands of colonial discourse at various politico-historical junctures. The empire films examined here span the period from the 1930s to the late 1950s. The 1930s saw production of the first wave of films of empire, ref lective of the ideolo- gies of the late nineteenth century;2 however the period witnessed certain representational shifts alongside continuities as the British Empire began to decline in earnest from 1945. Relations between Britain and Ireland and India were neither identical nor were they static: imperial cinema ref lects both the heterogeneous and shifting nature of such relationships while it also points to the common discursive underpinnings of representations of colonial relationships and subjectivities. Imperial representations of India concentrated on the (often compet- ing) needs of fostering national-imperial unity within the metropolis and delegitimising claims to Indian independence while retaining Indian loy- alty to the empire, increasingly important on the eve of the World War II. 1 Shohat and Stam,...

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