History is culturally ordered, differently so in different societies, according to meaningful schemes of things. The converse is also true: cultural schemes are historically ordered, since to a greater or lesser extent the meanings are revealed as they are practically enacted. 1ne synthesis of these contraries unfolds in the creative action of the historic subjects; the people concerned. (Sahlins 1985: VII) My research concentrated on a small locality: the Rathfarnham area of South Dublin. By using archival sources and local, oral history, I hoped to provide a historical ethnography of the region, to link past and present, to show the processes involved in change--the social, cultural and economic--and to locate these changes in fundamental shifts in epistimes through time. I also looked at how national and international events were experienced at local level with particular regard to the formation of class and dependency. Major transformations like the Reformation, the rise of capitalism and the decline of the feudal aristocracy had consequences for the local area. Silverman and Gulliver heighlighted in their study of Thomastown in 'Approaching the Past' 1992 that a locality is not a bounded community but is subject to dynamic processes and history.
Eric Wolf indicated in 'Europe and the People without History' 1982 that it is at the local level that networks intersect and what happens there is of crucial importance.
Developments in a locality do not occur in a vacuum but as a result of and in response to events in the wider context. Local space can be conceptualised and organised differently over time and interpretations of a local place can also effect a much wider area. My study of this place has led me to focus on the way different people have imagined, visualised, created and re-created their past and have inscribed the landscape at different times, culturally. By focusing on the local place, the intersection of structure and agency can be observed. As A. Jamie Saris has argued, the meanings that are attached to a specific place, the remembered histories are all ”folded into the mold of local life". (Saris 547) The three interviews I conducted: one with my informant "Ester"
whose ancestors planted the first non-native trees in Marley Park in the seventeenth century, the superintendent of that Park today and the guide in the Pearse Museum, all pointed to markers on the landscape, names attached to stories which highlighted the cultural connections between the place, persons and the historical story. Memories evoke history, history evokes relics and relics evoke memories, they all play on each other and have come to signify each other. The use of space and the construction of landscape, I will argue, is subject to the historical transformation of three cultural forms: colonialism, nationalism and postmodernism. By examining history, looking at the relics and listening to the memories attached to the area, I will show when these transformations took place and how landscape was used in the construction of wider national identities. History is a cultural concept, culture is historically ordered and history influences culture. It is the creative action of people that change things, thus Marshall Sahlins sees culture as a synthesis of continuity and change. People explain the past to themselves, and with this perspective history is ideology and is open to manipulation and revision. Those with power can reinforce or recreate historical knowledge but the invention of tradition and history also involves those with little power. Means of transforming cultural forms the revaluation of cultural objects is continuous but in times of struggles for power, wealth, glory and legitimacy the manipulation of symbols can be more clearly seen. Simon Harrison argues that symbolic conflict involves competition for what Pierre Bourdieu calls symbolic capital and that it has four modes, which are the production, valuation, assignment and destruction of symbols. I will argue that different groups competed for symbolic capital and show how aesthetics became a means through which these groups expressed themselves and negotiated status. When a group is trying to expand it seeks to displace the symbols of identity of its rivals with its own symbols. In this way, the collection of group symbols is altered by some being lost or others created. When a symbol is established it is married to a particular group and is seen as a sign of the groups identity and when it is destroyed it no longer represents the group. Suppressing the symbols of the rival group and replacing them with their own is what happens when a group is trying to expand its power. For example, changing the interiors of churches to mark them as their own or cutting down native trees and planting foreign species. In times of conflict, a group has to identify with one set of symbols. When a new regime gains control it usually tries to obliterate the old symbols and eliminate the groups identity. When a group is looking for superiority they try 'valuation strategies'.(Harrison:256) Creating new symbols is a strategy used by those looking for an independent identity and claims to ownership are based on creating a continuity with the past. For example the nineteenth century Irish antiquarian revival exalted the past to comfort the present, which was bleak around the period of the famine, so they evoked the golden age of Christianity to produce a respectable image of the Irish. Symbols of a distinctly Irish past were rediscovered like round towers, Celtic crosses and the Book of Kells which were presented to demonstrate that we had a rich cultural past. Creating Symbols-the Invention of Traditions Around the same period many countries in Europe witnessed the invention of traditions to control the urban masses, like the Highland Games in Scotland and in Ireland the GAA introduced traditional sports. Sometimes new traditions were united with existing customary practices which were modified, ritualised and institutionalised. Pagan festivals were absorbed by the Catholic Church and new Gothic and Romanesque churches were built in the nineteenth century like the one in Rathfarnham built in the style of architecture of the fourteenth century~~continuity is evoked. The stone font believed to be from penal times outside the main door reinforces this. Symbolic images of 'the nation' came into existence like 'John Bull' and Yeats 'Kathleen Ni Houlihan. Revival of traditions which was part of the Romantic movement meant there had been a break and so traditions had to be invented. Traditions were seen to symbolise membership of a group and legitimise social, political or religious institutions which embraced implicit values and beliefs like patriotism. Images of the past are created or restructured and the 'new tradition' is seen as rooted in antiquity. As Eric Hobsbawm states "they are highly relevant to that comparatively recent historical innovation, the nation".(Hobsbawm 1996: 13) With the invention of traditions there was an escalation in the number and complexity of symbols. This generated distinct combinations and allowed for differentiation at a competitive level through symbolic representations of identity. This is where the struggle can be seen: two groups in competition with each other. Political independence is seen as legitimate only by a distinctive national perception, a consciousness of their ethnic, linguistic, religious commonality, shared cultural attitudes and supposed historical memories. Cultural identities are evoked to legitimize political appropriation and are the weapons used in competition for resources. Abner Cohen defines ethnicity as an informal political organization where cultural boundaries are evoked so that the groups resources or 'symbolic capital' can be secured--a political process where leaders use 'primordial' symbols. Ethnicity is seen to arise from contempory social conditions, but Cohen qualifies that "ethnic organization must simultaneously serve political ends and satisy psychological needs for belongingness and meaning" (Eriksen, 1993:56). Fredrik Barth sees ethnicity as defined by the group themselves but historical processes and power differences inherent in the social structure can be a factor in ethnicity. Catherine Nash analyses the way ethnic identities are constructed vis-a-vis the landscape with both Colonial and Nationalist writers using the same landscape to construct a different 'gaze'. Emphasise can be placed on the choice and strategy of agents, or on the structural aspect of social life but social life can be seen as duel, with agency and system operating at the same time, both freedom and constraint. Choices can only be made on options as they arise. People make history but not under circumstances of their own choosing as Marx said. The production of symbols is not just a claim to a separate identity it is also a claim to equality with other groups. It is a process of mutual identification as wen as competitive differentiation--there are similarities and differences. Any cultural symbols the English claimed had their Gaelic equivalents, like language, religion, landscape. Identity needs an 'other' to define itself against, it is inherently relational. Symbols can be seen as property that are ascribed with a sacredness and ownership can mean rights to territory or political office. Symbols are a focus for identification; devotion and passionate feelings and that is why they are so important in power struggles between groups. Through participant observation, interviews and referring to Original sources for information the struggle to increase and maintain a higher ratio of symbolic capital by various groups is demonstrated.