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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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Nationalism and Pre-Independence Cinema Those who claim that Foucault removes the possibility of resistance as such miss the point: all that he downgrades is a theory of resistance centred on the individual subject as sovereign agent. … [F]orces of domination and resistance are caught up, sometimes indistinguishably, within each other. Acts of resistance may of course continue to be initiated through individual acts of will, but … there is no guarantee that they will produce intended ef fects. An awareness of this structure does not mean that strategic intervention is either useless or impossible; but it does mean that analysis of how resistance actually operates, in what conditions it succeeds or fails, needs an altogether more complex model.1 If the relationships between colonial and cinematic discourse in imperial representations of Ireland and India are complex and multifarious, early Irish and Indian cinemas are similarly variegated in their dialogic engage- ments with imperial cinema and the discourses it draws on and rearticulates. Such engagements do more than simply mirror the cinematic discourses articulated by imperial cinema. Postcolonial critical theory points to the dialogic relationship between colonial and nationalist discourses and con- structs; the examination of Indian and Irish cinemas requires a critical explo- ration of the development of anti-colonial nationalism in both countries vis-à-vis its discursive underpinnings. Similarities and parallels are evident in the nationalist movements of Ireland and India as they developed from the late-nineteenth century, developments with implications for the trajec- tories of Irish and Indian cinemas pre- and...

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