Imelda Rocks the Boom Boom: retro nostalgia, Imelda May and the culture of Irish austerity

Carlton Brick, Kelly Davidson

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    This article focuses upon the recent emergence of the Dublin born musician, Imelda May, as a cultural icon in post-Tiger Ireland. May has become a significant figure in the recent socio-political remaking of ‘Irishness’, both globally and domestically, performing at the ‘Year of the Gathering’ in 2012 and the ‘Glaoch: The President’s Call’ in 2013. Following Bramell (2013) the article argues that Mays’s celebrity embodies a form of ‘disruptive performativity’ embodied in the aesthetic appropriation of austerity as an expression of feminine subjectivity. May’s self-consciously retro feminine aesthetic simultaneously problematizes and legitimates the structural inequalities and ideological constructions of Irelands recent economic past. The article concludes that May embodies a popular nostalgia for a radical, collectivist ‘Irishness’, while also manifesting the passive normalization of austerity within contemporary Irish cultural and political discourse. The postmodern historicity of May’s particular ‘retro femininity’ simultaneously locates her with contemporary discourse as a revivalist of conservative gendered identities, and (post) feminist revisionist.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)77-96
    Number of pages20
    JournalJournal of European Popular Culture
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


    • Retro femininity
    • Post-Celtic Tiger
    • Imelda May
    • ‘Irishness’
    • Austerity
    • Disruptive performance


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