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Affecting Irishness

Negotiating Cultural Identity Within and Beyond the Nation


Edited By James P. Byrne, Padraig Kirwan and Michael O'Sullivan

This collection of new essays addresses a key debate in Irish studies. While it is important that new research endeavours to accommodate the new and powerful manifestations of Irishness that are evident today in our globalised economy, these considerations are often overlooked. The writers in this book seek to reconcile the established critical perspectives of Irish studies with a forward-looking critical momentum that incorporates the realities of globalisation and economic migration.
The book initiates this vital discussion by bringing together a series of provocative and thoughtful essays, from both renowned and rising international scholars, on the vicissitudes of cultural identity in a post-modern, post-colonial and post-national Ireland. By including work by leading scholars in the fields of film studies, migration and Diaspora studies, travel literature and gender studies, this collection offers a thorough twenty-first-century interrogation of Irishness and provides a timely fusion of international perspectives on Irish cultural identity.


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A ‘Sympathetic Look’: Documentary Humanism and Irish Identity in Dorothea Lange’s ‘Irish Country People’ Justin Carville 197


A ‘Sympathetic Look’: Documentary Humanism and Irish Identity in Dorothea Lange’s ‘Irish Country People’ Justin Carville The particular example of the greening of Ireland discussed in this chapter, has a decidedly monochromatic inflection. I draw attention to this aspect of the subject being examined, not to play with the crude polarity of vivid colour and the pallid tonality of black and white photography, but to foreground, at the outset, the use of the photographic image’s monochro- maticity as a powerful signifier in the representation of Irish identity. If colour, as the sociologist Eamonn Slater suggests (29), has recently been employed by rural communities as a strategy of tourism in the portrayal of the townscape and by reflection its inhabitants, as exotic, then the black and white documentary photograph can be identified as playing a pivotal role in cementing contemporary notions of a fixed, Irish identity, to an authentic, verifiable past. The current vogue for unearthing and compil- ing archives of photographic imagery for publication or display in heritage centres is testimony to this role played by photography in the construction of Irish identity.1 Images of long forgotten folk customs, farming practices, traditional costume and the spectacle of historical events, transported to the present from the past through the monochromatic surface of the pho- tographic image, all contribute to the recovery of the past as part of the process of constructing Irish identity. It is the black-and-white photograph’s monochromaticity which signifies both the veracity of the subject matter 1 On the...

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