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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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The Nation and its Supplements At a time when the grands récits of the West have been told and retold ad infinitum, when a certain postmodernism (Lyotard’s) speaks of an ‘end’ to metanarratives and when Fukayama talks of an ‘end of history’, we must ask: precisely whose narrative and whose history is being declared at an ‘end’? Dominant Europe may clearly have begun to deplete its strategic repertoire of stories, but Third World people, First World ‘minorities’ … have only begun to tell, and deconstruct, theirs. […] Working consciously with issues long elaborated in filmic and extra-filmic texts, the [Third Worldist] filmmaker almost necessarily becomes ref lexive, dialoging with the received body of belief and method, directly or indirectly discussing cinema itself within the films.1 Shohat and Stam note that ‘Third Worldist filmmakers see themselves as part of the national project, but the concept of the national is contradic- tory, the site of competing discourses’.2 Given its originary aim to construct a unitary, national subject as part of the anti-colonial struggle, nationalist discourse necessitates a management of internal dif ference in presenting the nation as a singular, unified entity, conforming to constructs of ‘authentic’ or legitimate national identity and represented by the state. Lloyd of fers an illuminating analysis of this process following nationalism’s capture of the state. Gellner’s account of subject formation in nationalism asserts that ‘[w]e are all of us now castrated, and pitifully trustworthy. The state can trust us, all in all, to do our duty, and...

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