‘It’s a complicated relationship’: Post-imperial Irish heritage in the shadow of Britain

Ireland has just completed a decade long celebration of its struggle for independence. Since 2012 heritage sites and local communities across the country have been commemorating the martyred dead, celebrating freedom from British rule, and reflecting on the changes to the State in the past 100 years. During this celebration many heritage sites strongly associated with Ireland and Britain’s bloody centuries long conflict have stated to rethink how this relationship is presented. Trying to move from a black a white tale of David vs Goliath, to something that looks at the ambiguity of Ireland's place within Imperial Britain.

The changing attitude to celebrating Irish Independence is complicated by the transformed relationship to Britain in the last decade. The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was the highpoint of a period of reconciliation. Since the Brexit vote in 2016 the relationship between both countries has soured, reaching a new low point in September 2023 when the British Government passed a law shielding soldiers who committed crimes (including murder and torture) in Northern Ireland from prosecution. This paper will look at three sites specifically: Dublin Castle, Kilmainham Gaol, and Glasnevin Cemetery. Each site has to contend with making Ireland and Irish history within the ruins of British imperial might. It discusses how the story of Independence is being told and reshaped in heritage spaces and by heritage workers, and asks if - 100 years since independence - there space for a more complicated story of the long ties between Ireland and Britain.  

Pitt Rivers Museum Research Seminar in Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology, Trinity Term 2024

Fridays, 12pm-1.30pm(Weeks 1-4)

In person at the Pitt Rivers Museum Lecture Theatre.

Convened by Paul Basu and Emily Stevenson