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Cashman on the Visual Culture of Northern Ireland

Congratulations to Ray Cashman, who has just published an article in the Journal of Folklore Research (JFR) interpreting the verbal and visual culture of Northern Ireland. JFR is as toll access journal, but I can pass on the abstract and encourage everyone to track the article down in print or behind the pay wall.

Murals, graffiti, flags, and annual commemorative parades are common in urban Northern Ireland where Irish Catholic nationalists and British Protestant unionists use these vernacular forms of custom and material culture to reiterate their differential identities in terms of ethnicity, denomination, and politics. Rural areas, on the other hand, present a very different visual scene with far fewer public visual displays broadcasting political messages and affiliations. Nevertheless, this lack does not necessarily signify that rural dwellers are somehow less politically minded or more peacefully integrated in comparison to their urban counterparts. Moving beyond the visual scene alone, we must pay attention to how rural dwellers contextualize their seemingly unmarked environment through oral legendary and personal narrative. In particular, the oral traditions of one rural, majority-nationalist community in County Tyrone demonstrate significant differences between urban and rural ways of imagining and internalizing the Irish Catholic nationalist cause. Many urban murals, for example, focus outward, gesturing to a secular, cosmopolitan, and international consciousness, while the Tyrone landscape—as contextualized by oral tradition—focuses inward on the local, autochthonous, and sacred. Despite advances in an on-going peace process, this rural, radically emplaced vision of the Irish nationalist cause may well have significant staying power.

Ray Cashman (2008 ) “Visions of Irish Nationalism.” Journal of Folklore Research: An International Journal of Folklore and Ethnomusicology. 45(3):361-381.

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