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‘In What Ways Has The Landscape Of Dublin Expressed The Power Of Ruling Elites?’

896 words - 4 pages

Capital cities are expressions of political power. Capital cities are provided with symbolic functions that represent the state and country they are the capital of. Capital cities create, express and maintain art and power of architecture and imagery and not just power but collective identity. A collective identity that is an association with something or someone of ambition (Therborn, 2002).
Commemorating an individual or event, public monuments are not simply features of urban landscapes but highly symbolic signifiers that express the power of ruling elites. Ancient Greeks used monuments as a means of conferring honour on esteemed members of society. Mid nineteenth century, public monuments took on significance as a means of celebrating a nations past. Public statues are sites of meaning which change plain spaces and help establish authority. Public statues can also challenge authority, where they are a useful target for demonstrations of opposition. In the late nineteenth to early twentieth century, public statues made power concrete in the landscape. Monuments have often been erected to challenge the legitimacy of government and objectify revolutionary movements. This is true in post-colonial countries emerging from the shadow of political domination (Whelan, 2002).
Cosgrove suggests “all landscapes are symbolic reproducing cultural norms and establishing the values of dominant groups across all of society” (Whelan, 2002). Landscapes have come to be regarded as deposits of cultural and symbolic meaning. Monuments erected during the period in which Ireland shared an uneasy colonial relationship with Britain provide a form of symbolization. They appropriated public space not only as a representation of the individual they commemorated, but also in the ceremony that went with the unveiling. As the political context in Ireland changed so did the meaning attached to the monuments. The statues became sites of protests rather than sites of loyalty to an empire. This trend became even more distinct in the post-colonial period. In the late nineteenth century, Dublin was found in a monumental conflict. As a city that belongs to the British Empire, important members of the monarchy were erected in the capital. By 1850, the monumental landscape was dominated by monarchical figures which created a cultural landscape that expressed links with the broader British Empire. Each monument together with other statues dedicated to figures of the British establishment connected to Irish affairs, play a role in the construction of imperial power. Located in prominent sites these statues contributed to the creation of a symbolic landscape in which Irish figures are absent (Whelan, 2002). Irish patriotism in Dublin was only attached by scaffold. The statues and monuments that were erected were not placed to...

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