Sexing the nation: discourses of the dancing body in Ireland in the 1930s
O'Connor, Barbara (2005) Sexing the nation: discourses of the dancing body in Ireland in the 1930s. Journal of Gender Studies, 14 (2). pp. 89-105. ISSN 0958-9236
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This article addresses the relationship between discourses of 'nation' and 'gender' in the specific context of the dance hall in 1930s Ireland. The establishment of public dance halls during this era coincided with the project of nation building following political independence in 1922. It is claimed that the dance hall became a significant site for national identity construction, that powerful political and cultural groups sought to mould dancing bodies to shape an 'ideal' body politic and, that this process was profoundly gendered. It is argued that the tension between the discourses of 'tradition' and 'modernity' within the political arena led to a struggle to achieve cultural dominance which was mapped onto the representation of female and male bodies within the dance hall space. Four main discourses of the dance hall were identified and categorised as 'degenerate', 'utopian', 'battleground', and 'custodial'. I go on to argue that the male and female bodies within the gendering process could be seen as mirror images of each other and operated through the association of women with the private sphere, modernity and consumption, and the representation of men in terms of production and as guardians of tradition in the public domain. The discussion is based on an analysis of representations of the dance hall in a particular provincial newspaper, The Leitrim Observer, for the year 1934 and is supplemented with data from other newspapers for the same year.
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