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Ghost developments on film: an experimental ethnographic exploration of place and space in post -Celtic Tiger Ireland

Baxter, Patrick (2017) Ghost developments on film: an experimental ethnographic exploration of place and space in post -Celtic Tiger Ireland. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

How can film and social research be used to interrogate the relationship between a marginalized place and its vacant spaces - what I refer to as Ghost Developments? This research project investigated aspects of the post-Celtic Tiger Ireland newly built environment through the production of an experimental ethnographic documentary film and an accompanying scholarly text. In the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, the Republic of Ireland experienced one of the most dramatic property market collapses in recorded history, resulting large swathes of vacant and/or unfinished housing and commercial property throughout the country. My hometown and county Longford was one of the places that suffered disproportionally as a site of what became known as ‘ghost estates’ - unfinished housing estates, though it should be noted there remained a paucity of social or artistic research into vacant commercial property. In my research I have expanded on the popular term ‘ghost estate’ to arrive at ‘ghost developments’ as a new conceptualization within ruin studies that seeks to explore the aesthetic, artistic, historical, relational, material and experiential qualities of a range of ruined spaces in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, and furthermore what they can tell us about the social dynamics of place. I use the ‘ghost development’ conceptualization as a social and filmic device that not only questions how vacant space has been represented in post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, but furthermore to propose the idea that through these spaces we can begin to think of the categories of urban/rural/suburban not solely as spatial delineations but as sets of social practices which are negotiated differently depending on social setting or location. My film A Place Where Ghosts Dwell employs a number of different styles, film modes and techniques to narratively tease out the spaces between ethnographic film and the essay-film to create an artistic film that is subjective and intersubjective, stylized and socially contextualized. As an experimental ethnography, this project (text and film) is both artistic and social research.

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