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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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Conclusion 197


Conclusion The foregoing chapters have focused on cinematic representations of Britain, Ireland and India from the beginnings of cinema until the early 1960s, exploring the relationships between the representations of coloniser and colonised and between cinematic and extra-cinematic discourses. Illustrating the complex and important role played by film in the consti- tution and reinforcement of dominant discourses and constructions of identity, this study demonstrates that the dialogic, polydiscursive nature of cinema has also placed it in a position to challenge such constructions and to imagine alternative visions of Empire and nation, Self and Other and to construct various visions and versions of belonging. The analysis undertaken here constitutes a beginning; many developments in Irish and Indian cinemas from the 1960s onward suggest themselves as sites of exploration which would serve to build on the model and approach sug- gested by this study. Alongside the growth of representations which reinforce dominant discourses and ideologies, questionings and critical representations have continued to develop and have gathered pace in Irish and Indian cinemas. The establishment of the New Indian Cinema, a government-sponsored sector outside the industrial mainstream, at the end of the 1960s generated cultural and political dynamism sparked by the mainstream’s industry’s opposition to it.1 A substantial number of technically and creatively tal- ented figures were trained under the New Indian Cinema. Kumar Shahani, a graduate of the New Indian Cinema and also a student of Ritwik Ghatak, is credited with defining the terrain of an independent cinema movement in India; Shahani’s...

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