The active lives of the material culture of commemoration: a Chinese braid and the Irish Citizen Army flag

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When material culture is used for commemorative purposes objects become mnemonic devices through which we construct narratives of ourselves and other people. By exploring the “active lives” of an Irish Citizen Army flag, exhibited in Dublin, and a Chinese braid/queue included in Remembering 1916: Your Stories (Ulster Museum 25 March 2016– 19 March 2017), this paper provides insights into how objects are positioned as part of dominant or peripheral narratives. How these objects are experienced is shaped by the social structures in which they are encountered. In the earliest phase the flag represented the campaign for Irish independence, and the braid was the symbol of the wearer’s community identity. Violent interventions by others changed the meaning of the flag and the braid, leading both to become trophy objects. Later, in the museum and a private home, the keeping of the objects suggests awareness of cultural significance, whilst their concealment suggests avoidance of the most difficult issues associated with those objects. This article explores the intentionality revealed by each phase providing new thinking about the agency of commemorative objects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-404
Number of pages18
JournalIrish Studies Review
Issue number4
Early online date9 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished online - 9 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Material Culture
  • Ireland
  • museums
  • memory
  • Commemoration
  • decolonisation
  • Decade of Centenaries
  • Material culture
  • commemoration


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