Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Denis Linehan
2014
July
Cultural Geographies
Irish Empire: assembling the geographical imagination of Irish Missionaries in Africa
Published
()
Optional Fields
21
3
423
441
Throughout the twentieth century, the print and visual culture of Irish missionaries have produced a powerful mode of mediating and representing Africa.  Books, exhibitions, public lectures, magazines, film and eventually television, played a key role in unfolding a discourse of Africa and of the African for the Irish, whilst simultaneously providing a platform upon which certain aspects of ‘the Irish self’ were constructed.  In this paper, in line with a growing interest in the extensive associations the Irish had with Empire, as avatars of colonialism, rather than its victims only, will show how in spite of national claims to the contrary, Irish missionary portrayals of Africa negotiated ideas that were shaped by the European colonial and imperial project.  The paper situates the questions  asked of this Irish missionary visual and print culture within the literature concerned with the production and circulation of geographical knowledge.  This strategy is pursued by drawing freely upon post-structuralist theories of assemblage   a range of concepts that have been addressed variously by De Landa, Deluze and Escobar. Set against this literature, the paper argues that the notion of assemblage also illustrate the multiplicity of trajectories’ upon which cultural geographies of Irish Missionary representations were made, more clearly that deploying colonial discourse analysis alone. In particulary this approach can enhance our understanding of  how as a form and maker of ‘knowledge space’, geographical culture enveloped the whole missionary enterprise. The idea of assemblage as a methodology shows how the geographies of missionary activities can be mapped through a web that managed to be hierarchical and extensive, ranging across long distances to destinations in the Tropics, while at the same time maintaining a spiritual, pragmatic and affective relationship with individuals and communities in the locale, in this case the Irish parish and home.  Hence, the concept of assemblage is particularly effective in revealing the missionary enterprise as a series of transactions across space, and indeed between Heaven and Earth, which in turn, offer a dynamic way of reading its print and visual culture.  
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