Irish Displays across Space and Time
North American Conference on British Studies 3
This panel is composed of American-based scholars of British and Irish history whose research centers on aspects of internal and external representations of Ireland and the Irish at varying temporal and spatial scales. For much of its modern history Ireland has been shaped by two forces: continuous large-scale emigration and a lengthy, sometimes violent, effort by Irish nationalists to secure independence from Britain. These left a legacy that was truly global and enduring, influencing, among other things, British imperial and security policy, nationalist and post-colonial philosophy across the world, and the formation of ethnic identities in the United States and other nations where the Irish settled.
The papers engage with a range of specific cultural and political representations of Ireland in Europe, North America, and Asia. Dr. Janis examines the creation of the Irish Village at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair in order to explore questions of representation and authenticity. Using correspondence and a wide range of official and unofficial accounts of the fair, he demonstrates that for the Irish Village the primary question was which Ireland would be on display, the modernizing land primed for investment that the Irish representatives wished to present, or the old Ireland that Irish Americans and their children thought they remembered? Dr. Meier’s paper draws on his larger exploration of terrorism from 1870 to the present to offer a comparison of press coverage of Irish terrorism in the 1870s with media representations of I.R.A. violence in the 1970s. In linking these time scales he demonstrates how the meaning of the very word “terrorism” changed over time and according to its shifting locations in Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Britain, as well as the importance of colonialism to the way British media made sense of terrorism. Dr. Shonk’s paper builds on previous work exploring the positioning of Dublin as an anti-imperial “shadow metropole,” exploring the subtle but important ways that Ireland influenced Burma’s efforts to withdrawal from the British Commonwealth. He discusses how Burma’s constitutional mission to Ireland is one of many examples in which Dublin, and Ireland writ large, served as a physical and imagined space in which myriad anti-colonial leaders were able to facilitate their withdrawal from Empire by rhetorically aligning their own movements to that of Ireland. Our commentator, Dr. Preston, is well-prepared to contextualize and encourage an audience of non-specialists to consider the wider implications of these new perspectives.