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Imaging the Great Irish Famine: Representing Dispossession in Visual Culture

Imaging the Great Irish Famine: Representing Dispossession in Visual Culture
Niamh Ann Kelly

  • Hardback | Not Yet Published | £72.00

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  • Hardback | Not Yet Published | $99.00


The depiction of historical humanitarian disasters in art exhibitions, news reports, monuments and heritage landscapes has framed the harrowing images we currently associate with dispossession. People across the world are driven out of their homes and countries on a wave of conflict, poverty and famine, and our main sites for engaging with their loss are visual news and social media. In a reappraisal of the viewer's role in representations of displacement, Niamh Ann Kelly examines a wide range of commemorative visual culture from the mid-nineteenth-century Great Irish Famine. Her analysis of memorial images, objects and locations from that period until the early twenty-first century shows how artefacts of historical trauma can affect understandings of enforced migrations as an ongoing form of political violence. This book will be of interest to students and researchers of museum and heritage studies, material culture, Irish history and contemporary visual cultures exploring dispossession.

Author Info

Niamh Ann Kelly is a lecturer in Critical Theory at the Dublin School of Creative Arts and since 2010 has chaired the BA Contemporary Visual Culture programme. She also teaches MA courses, supervises post-graduate research and is an Associate Fellow of the Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media. Her research interests lie in contemporary art, the history of art, museum studies and cultural analysis, with a focus on the relationship of art to collective histories and representations of grievous histories in visual culture.


‘A crystal potato – what kind of an artwork is that? Niamh Ann Kelly wrote a book that offers a fresh look at the visual culture surrounding the cultural memory of the Irish Famine, caused by the 1845 potato blight. But beyond that, in doing so she sets an example of the difficult but important task of today’s developing methodology of cultural analysis. This entails an integration of historical research and contemporary reflection on how the enduring memory of the disaster continues to affect us, and hence, requires thinking about the “politics of food”. In other words, it brings not only history to the present, but also art and other visual expressions together with political issues. This balanced interdisciplinary study of an event with many social and historical tentacles shows everyone how to do this.’ -- Mieke Bal, Professor Emeritus in Literary Theory, the University of Amsterdam and co-founder of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis

‘Niamh Ann Kelly’s lavishly-illustrated book throws new light on the visual culture commemorative of hunger, famine and dispossession in mid-nineteenth century Ireland. Located within the discipline of international memorial studies, the text and images both challenge and extend our understanding of Famine history. Examining the visual culture since the time of the Famine until the present, Kelly asks, how do we view, experience and represent the past in the present? To what extend does the viewer insert themselves in this complex process. Is there such a thing as ethical spectatorship? Kelly’s sophisticated yet sympathetic study of the ‘grievous history’ of the Great Famine is a powerful addition to Famine history, Irish Studies, Memory Studies and Memorial Studies.' -- Professor Christine Kinealy, Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut

‘Visual representations of the Irish Famine range from surviving artefacts and contemporary drawings to modern sculptures and canvasses. Some are disturbingly graphic, others quite abstract; some accusatory, others merely prescriptive. Some were originally intended for private consumption, while more are located in commemorative public spaces. Some would have resonated more with people in the past than they do today—and vice versa. What motivated and motivates artists to depict the Famine? Which representations best convey the injustices and sufferings of the 1840s nowadays? In this pioneering study of the Famine in visual culture Niamh Ann Kelly provides us with a highly original and subtle discussion of the material at the centre of such questions. Her erudition and aesthetic understanding is supported by a wealth of illustrations, much of which will be unfamiliar even to specialists.' - Cormac Ó Gráda, Professor Emeritus of Economics, University College Dublin and author of 'Famine: A Short History' and 'Eating People is Wrong: Essays on the History and Future of Famine'

‘Imagining the Great Irish Famine is a vital book on an important topic that continues to haunt the cultural imagination in Ireland and beyond. Addressing the interrelations between visual culture, memory, heritage, museums, and archives, Niamh Ann Kelly’s interdisciplinary study offers uniquely perceptive insights into the deep history, contested meaning, and evolving afterlife of the Great Irish Famine.' - Christoph Lindner, Dean of the College of Design, University of Oregon, USA.

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Series: International Library of Visual Culture

ISBN: 9781784537104
Publication Date: 29 May 2018
Number of Pages: 256
Height: 216
Width: 138
Illustrations: 40 black and white illustrations

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