Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Byrne, Anne and O'Mahony, Deirdre
Ethnography from Margin to Centre, AAI Annual Conference 6-7 December, RIA, Dublin, 2012
Visualising the Archive- The Harvard Irish Mission in Clare 1930-2012
RIA, Dublin
Chaired Session
Optional Fields
25th Anniversary Conference of the Anthropological Association of IrelandAbstract: Visualising the Archive- The Harvard Irish Mission in Clare 1930-2012   In this paper we engage in ‘reflexive visiting’ as we ‘visualise the archive’, travelling across time, disciplines, authorities and paradigms, re-inventing practices, sharing conversations, inviting critiques. With the gift of anthropological archival material, an opportunity to think through the archive from an ethnographic, aesthetic and democratic perspective emerges.   The project partners are the Rinnamona Research Group, a social anthropologist, artist and successor family members whose predecessors were written about in the classic 1930s study, ‘Family and Community in Ireland’ (1940) by Conrad Arensberg and Solon Kimball. In receiving the ‘gift’ of the anthropological diaries of farm and family life in Clare, we sought to return these diaries to successor generations and the larger community utilizing a slow collaborative dialogic and visual process. A month long community exhibition of textual and photographic archival materials relating to farm and family life (2008), the production of a community based photo book (2010) and a film in which the successors speak back to the anthropological text (2012) emerged from our creative work. Learning to listen and respond to research partners preferences for the visual, material and the historical provided a significant clue in mediating community/artistic/academic research partnerships. The process of working with anthropological and community sourced visual materials allowed space for connection, exchange and democratic dialogue, framed around stories and images. Visualising the archive challenged the hitherto dominant representation of Rinnamona by Arnesberg and Kimball and created a more complex understanding, and empathy for that community amongst a broader public. Though rooted in the 1930s, the catalytic potential of ethnographic anthropological texts to ground present day rural community identities and relationships is considered.   Bios Anne Byrne has worked with the social anthropology archives of the Harvard -Irish Survey (1930-36) for some time now, writing about the historiography of that project, the epistolary research relations between the American anthropologists and people in Ireland as well as looking at how art and ethnography can open up new modes of representation for present day communities when working with archival material pertaining to ancestors. Together with the visual artist Deirdre O’Mahony, Anne explores how ethnographic anthropological texts, though rooted in the 1930s, can be catalytic in grounding present day rural community identities and relationships. The collaborative production of old and new visual materials (exhibition, DVD, photobook) becomes a medium to reconnect the products of anthropology with present day communities and their concerns.   Deirdre O’Mahony is an artist and lecturer in the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. In her latest research she has been exploring three themes, all arising from her earlier work on the perception and representation of rural land/scapes. This concerns first, the mechanics of belonging in rural communities, secondly, the creativity of tacit, practice-led knowledge and thirdly, the relational dynamic between the local/rural and the national/global.   Rinnamona Research Group Dr Anne Byrne, School of Political Science and Sociology, NUIG; Deirdre O’Mahony, School of Humanities, GMIT; Rinnamona Research Group, (RRG) Mary Moroney, Sean Roche, John Ruane, Francis Whelan.
Publication Themes