The period 1890 to 1914 witnesses a European-wide crisis in masculinity and an acceleration of modern nationalism. The figure of the boy becomes a central symbol for re-securing both masculinity and the nation. As a consequence boy culture became increasing associated with militarism. Nation states are masculine institutions and therefore it hardly surprises that the story that the modern state tells to legitimise its origins prioritises masculine concerns. This study focuses on the construction of visual nation-building narratives expressed through nationalist boy culture in Ireland at the beginning of the twentieth century. It aims to connect these currents to the broader European context and, in the process, evaluate the relationship between gendering and nationalism at this specific historical juncture. It argues that by focusing on the role and development of boy culture during this period we can better understand why the nation narrative prioritises one visualised story of national self-determinacy over a number of competing versions, and it foregrounds the resilience of hegemonic masculinity in this. In this context, which photographs are chosen to support the nation narrative and which get forgotten is significant because it indicates the gendered nature of nation formation.
|Published online - 1 Dec 2014
- nation narrative