Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Justine Van Meter
This project employs a cultural studies approach to investigate the overlapping productions of Irish identity at the Irish Villages of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Conceptualized and designed by two British philanthropists and businesswomen, the Irish Villages presented an Irishness shaped by Ireland’s long history of colonial rule. For Irish Americans living in the United States during the late nineteenth century, the Irish Villages offered a particularly well-suited opportunity to present an identity that would facilitate their acceptance into American society. Rather than challenging or negating the colonial representations of Irishness that existed at places like the Chicago World’s Fair, Irish Americans worked within this dominant system of representation to construct a unified identity. Central to this complex negotiation was the appropriation and reappropriation of signifiers from colonial and nationalist ideologies abroad and in the United States. Places like the Chicago World's Fair, where signifiers and meaning-making were essential to its function, became like a palimpsest, with Irish Americans assigning their meanings to colonial tropes. The identity that Irish Americans created through spaces like the Chicago World's Fair was so successful that it not only impacted how Irishness was viewed in the United States but also spread throughout the world through American consumerism. For this reason, understanding of the formation of Irish American identity sheds light on the current state of Irishness worldwide.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Bocinski, Jessica. “Everything and Nothing”: Exhibiting Irishness at the Chicago World Fair of 1893. 2023. Chapman University, MA Thesis. Chapman University Digital Commons, https://doi.org/ 10.36837/chapman.000470
Available for download on Thursday, May 01, 2025
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