This article considers the role of visualising in the formation of the nation narrative. It foregrounds the significance of gender performance in early twentieth-century Irish cultural nationalism. Prior to the consolidation of a hegemonic narrative of state, spaces existed for the exploration of a range of possible projections of identity. This study focuses on one of those possibilities, namely a series of costume photographs where gender is literally performed. A contextual reading of these photographs is offered in order to situate them within the formation of the nation narrative. The gender of the nation is enacted through performativity, which through its repetition comes to be seen as natural. The photographs under consideration here undermine that process of naturalisation by revealing a more complex and contradictory history of the relationship between gender and nation. The omission of this more complex representation in the Irish narrative, it is argued, reveals how monopoly of narrative is integral to both hegemonic control in the visual field and how we understand the nation.
- nation narrative
- gender performance