States of Colour: Irish and Vietnamese Women after Albert Kahn’s Archives of the Planet - Etudes Irlandaises (French Journal of Irish Studies) | Summer 2021 Issue | Fine-Combing The Past: Frames, Patterns and Metaphors

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The raison d'être of this thematic issue is to showcase innovative, experimental and disruptive approaches to transforming the traces of the Irish past into evidence and narratives from as broad a range of perspectives as possible. Feeding the processes involved in working through the past that are expressed by the German word vergangenheitsbewältigung, through an Irish Studies prism, we re-inscribe the Irish expression mionchíoradh an am atá caite (fine-combing the past) as a prompt for engaging with and processing the time before our perpetual present and organising the articles in this volume. As in the German, the Irish phrase implies the evolution, renovation or creation of methodologies to disentangle and sift the traces of the past and carefully work towards healthier narratives. Simultaneously, Cíoradh also implies disturbing, shaking things up, harassing and aggravating, and we are particularly interested in subjects that are generally avoided: the difficult, unpopular, awkward, inconvenient, undocumented, invisible and impossible. As Ireland moved into modernity concerted efforts were made to turn a page on its past without having fully examined issues such as child and institutional abuse, racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and colonialism.

The aim of this publication is to question existing narratives of the past and explore ways and means of achieving more truthful, joyful, playful, irreverent and, ultimately, more satisfying versions by engaging with experimental methodologies and unexplored sources. As a selected peer reviewed paper within this context Greaney's work consolidates research carried out for the Fast Forward Women in Photography Conference - as well as within her practice-based photographic research ‘Street Flower’ - by contextualising this within the historical Paris based photographic archive of Albert Kahn.

Marking the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Irish States, this paper serves to explore the historical representation of Irish women between states, shrouded in the iconography of colour and dress. Almost 50 years since the Vietnam War, such images of Irish women are posited against photographic representations of Vietnamese women, existing within different states, at specific points during the same 100-year period. The research involves investigation of over 2000 previously unseen images from the archive. Those images previously unselected for publication reveal new insights into the subject’s photographed as well as the attitudes of the relevant photographers, editors and audiences - from the dates of creation, in the early 20th century, up to recent contemporary exhibition and publication. The paper uses Greaney’s own photographic works as part of this investigation. In drawing out these points of connection the research creates significant new perspectives and enhances understanding of the camera's ability to both conceal and reveal, within the context of contested histories, identities and within periods of social, political change and upheaval.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEtudes Irlandaises
VolumeSummer 2021
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Dec 2020


  • Photography
  • Performance
  • Gesture
  • Colour
  • Magic
  • Counterparts
  • Pattern
  • Portraiture
  • Landscape
  • Migration
  • Conflict
  • Colonialism
  • Post-Colonialism
  • Paris
  • Vietnam
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Women


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