The city and the body in the archive: photography, history and the representation of Dublin 1860-1922
Carville, Justin (2005) The city and the body in the archive: photography, history and the representation of Dublin 1860-1922. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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In modem Irish historical discourse there is no history of photography there are only photographs of history. Reproduced as dust jackets or as illustrations accompanying historical narratives photographs rarely receive any critical attention. Institutions charged with administrating large collections of photographs such as the National Library of Ireland engender such uses of photography. Cataloguing all photographs through the lexicon of Irish social and political history they impose the abstract unity of the photographic archive onto diverse collections of photographs. Photographs that once functioned within commercial, domestic and government archives are now encompassed into a general archive of imagery that illustrates the nation’s history.
Examining specific photographic archives in their original context this study argues that photography is not illustrative of history but is itself the historical. Through a close reading of the writings of Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer the connections between photography, history and memory are examined to establish a theoretical framework for conceiving of photographic representation as a form of history. Discussing the technological, aesthetic, material and representational practices of photography in conjunction with this theoretical framework the study examines what is ‘photographic’ about archival representations of history. Taking a series of archives representing Dublin and the militarised body between 1860-1922 as case-studies, the shifting photographic practices used to represent urban space are charted to examine how the photographic archive constructs historical representations of the city and the militarised body in that city. Arguing that the history photographs represent cannot be separated from the history they enact the study examines the histories of visuality, representation and the circulation of imagery that are tied to the photographic archive.
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