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'Beacons of modernity': department stores, modernity and the urban experience in mid-twentieth century Ireland

Keith Spiller, Denis Linehan


This paper explores the spatiality of several Irish department stores with a view to presenting new insights into questions of modernity and identity in the midtwentieth century Irish city. We propose that shops like Cashes, Munster Arcade, Amotts, Brown Thomas, McBirneys, Clerys and Switzers were sites that enrolled consumers into certain kinds of cultural identity, offering opportunities to develop modern tastes and perform modern senses of fashion as sites where notions of 'the modern' were represented and articulated, as arenas where Irish people 'met' modernity in ordinary and tangible forms. The paper considers the cultural geographies and histories of this widely neglected part of the urban experience in twentieth century Ireland. 

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