Traditions and modernities: Aer Lingus and the visualisation of Irish identities 1951-1961
King, Linda (2007) Traditions and modernities: Aer Lingus and the visualisation of Irish identities 1951-1961. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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The establishment of a national airline m Ireland in 1936 was understood to fulfil many functions: as a government agent it was a conduit for 'official' discourses of national identity, as de facto tourist authority it visualised and disseminated such and as a transport medium it facilitated cultural exchange. Focusing on a collection of posters and other examples of graphic design and advertising produced on behalf of Aer Lingus between 195 1 and 1961, this thesis provides a thematic investigation of the intersection of these simultaneous roles which reveals a complexity of concerns embedded in the material culture of the alrline. These themes broadly compnse: the ideological function of the airline within the national and international discourse of nation buildmg; the intersection of Aer Lingus' role with that of other Irish tourism agents; the company's rned~ationo f cultural homogeneity through the materialisation of Catholicism; and its multiplicity of roles in the development of inward and outward tourism. Utilising these objects as primary and material texts, this research provldes a unique examination of how social, economic and polltical ideologies were visually articulated during period of profound change - a time when Irish habitus was simultaneously reinforced and challenged and, when the isolationist policies that defined the early decades of independence were questioned in the prelude to Ireland's application for EEC membership.
As mediators of parallel discourses of nationalism and internationalism these objects reflect attempts to articulate a collective identity through the synthesis of two apparently contradictory abstractions, tradition and modernity. However, as many were authored by Dutch immigrant designers employed to professionalise the nascent field of Irish graphic design practice, this analysis emphasises the complexity of such vlsual representations and, in doing so, demonstrates the extent to which national image represents the fusion and fluidity of both internal and external influences.
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