Historical duty, palimpsestic time, and migration in the Decade of Centenaries
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McIvor, C. (2016). Historical duty, palimpsestic time and migration in the Decade of Centenaries. Irish Studies Review, 24(1), 49-66.
This article analyses Sonya Kelly’s How to Keep an Alien (Dublin Tiger Fringe, 2014) and ANU Production’s Vardo (Dublin Theatre Festival, 2014) in relationship to the performative backdrop of the Irish Decade of Centenaries (2012–22) and a series of key extra-theatrical political events have that featured asylum seekers and migrants prominently in Ireland and to a limited extent in Europe at large from 2012 to 2015. Both theatrical productions centrally engage tropes of Irish national memory vis-à-vis engagement with migration through a primary focus on women’s stories and premiered against the backdrop of the Decade of Centenaries. How to Keep an Alien and Vardo’s embrace of what M. Jacqui Alexander terms “palimpsestic time” and their critical focus on gender during this moment of the Decade of Centenaries models a theatrical dramaturgy that aids in reading key theatrical and extra-theatrical events featuring asylum seekers and migrants against one another. These works reveal the relationship between these events and the ongoing redefinition of Irish national memory and political community, a process thrown into sharp relief by the present commemorative mode. They insist that a turn to the past is inseparable from querying the lived political structures of the present, structures that have repeatedly displaced as well as instrumentalised the bodies of migrant women from the post-inward migration of the mid-1990s onwards.
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