On Some Spatial Aspects of the Colonial Discourse on Ireland

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During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries an impressive body of analytical, survey, and descriptive literature on Ireland was produced. This material, associated with the Tudor and Stuart ‘reconquest’ of the country, included texts, produced in the wake of More’s Utopia, which have been described as marking the beginning of English colonial theory. This paper sets out to examine the spatial aspects of the colonial discourse on Ireland as displayed in this literature. In particular, it attempts to show the extent to which these aspects are implicated throughout the texts and to delineate the interplay between them. Colonial regimes of space, while clearly demonstrated at the scale of landscape and settlement, are not concluded there: instead they extend down to the scale of the body in its practices, fashioning, and deportment. The spatial formation of the colonial city, here Sir Thomas Smith’s Elizabetha, must be understood in the context of the chain of spatial elements . . . in terms, for example, of the colonial rhetoric dealing with the surface and depths of the land, with penetration and arable cultivation, and with the trope of the colonist-husband. At the end, the paper discusses a nineteenth-century Punch cartoon, which illustrates how the dissociation that the colonial discourse introduces between the native and the land is linked to a thematics of penetration, which swings between first
lack (the savage native pastoralist of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts whose condition springs from a refusal or inability to cultivate) and then excess (the monstrous, land-consuming peasant of the nineteenth-century constructions).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-51
Number of pages25
JournalThe Journal of Architecture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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