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Politics of Irish identity and the interconnections between feminism, nationhood, and colonialism.

Politics of Irish identity and the interconnections between feminism, nationhood, and colonialism. Gray, Breda and Ryan, Louise (1998) Politics of Irish identity and the interconnections between feminism, nationhood, and colonialism. ...
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  THE POLITICS OF IRISH IDENTITY AND THE INTERCONNECTIONS BETWEEN FEMINISM, NATIONHOOD AND COLONIALISM  Cite as: Gray, Breda, and Louise Ryan. "Politics of Irish identity and the interconnections between feminism, nationhood, and colonialism." (1998): in Nation, Empire, Colony: Historicizing Gender and Race, edited by Ruth Roach Pierson, Indiana University Press, pp. 121-138.  Feminism 1  is inextricably linked with the growth of 'secular nation-states, industrial capitalism and war and peace among nations' (Offen, 1992:78). Kumari Jayawardena (Jayawardena, 1986) links the rise of feminist movements with anti-colonial and nationalist struggles both of which herald moves towards secularism and social reform. As Carol Coulter points out, Not only in Ireland, but throughout the colonised world, women came onto the public stage in large numbers through the great nationalist movements of the beginning of this century...However, their involvement in the revolutionary movements was not matched by their place in the newly created states (Coulter, 1993:3) . Other writers see nationalist ideologies and politics as mobilizing women in the interests of the nation-state which is an expression of men's interests (Enloe, 1989, Yuval-Davis, 1993, Yuval-Davis, 1989). Nationalisms, according to Cynthia Enloe, have 'typically sprung from masculinized memory, masculinized humiliation and masculinized hope' (Enloe, 1989: 44). Deniz Kandiyoti (1991) points out that these different perspectives share the view that women have a different relationship to national identity than men. Our main aim in this paper, is to explore the complex relationships between feminism and nationalism since the beginning of the twentieth century in Ireland. We focus, in particular, on the twenty-six county state and the gendered development of national identity since just prior to the establishment of the state in the 1920s. We examine some of the key activities of Irish feminists this century with reference to the interrelationships between constructions of Irishness and feminist activism over time.  2 Nationalisms are a modern phenomenon (Gellner, 1983) and take many forms changing focus and direction in different times and places. They are, as Anne McClintock suggests, 'invented, performed and consumed in ways that do not follow a universal blueprint' (1993: 67). Nationalisms can be revolutionary ideologies concerned with resisting domination, or dominant ideologies legitimizing the interests of established elites (Jackson, 1993). Both forms can be identified in Ireland over this century. Both of these forms of nationalisms simultaneously look backwards and forwards in time (Nairn, 1981) drawing on 'tradition' and modernisation as sources of legitimation and as foci for the maintenance of unity. Nationalism in its different forms in Ireland over this century has variously emphasized either tradition and the past or the future and modernization. Anne McClintock sees nationalisms' simultaneous concern with the past and the future as involving the negotiation of a path 'between nostalgia for the past, and the impatient, progressive sloughing off of the past (1993:66). This 'temporal anomaly' is, in her view, resolved 'by representing the contradiction as 'a "natural" division of gender  ' (1993:66). She characterises this split in the following way Women are represented as the atavistic and authentic 'body' of national tradition (inert, backward-looking, and natural), embodying nationalism's conservative principle of continuity. Men, by contrast, represent the progressive agent of national modernity (forward-thrusting, potent and historic), embodying nationalism's progressive of revolutionary principle of discontinuity (1993:66).  In this paper, we suggest that the relationships between women and nationalism are more complex than McClintock suggests. Her complete association of women with tradition, nature and the past is certainly true in particular times and contexts in Ireland, however, Irish feminist activism has contested these associations, and women can be seen as being incorporated within signifiers of modernization and progress in more recent national iconography. For example, in the 1980s, Irish women were included in the Irish Industrial Development Authority's poster campaign 'the young Europeans ' 2  as modern, educated European citizens who can take their place at high levels within a European economy 3 .  3 In this paper, we explore Irish women's challenges to the ways in which they have been positioned by the dominant architects of Irish national identity this century, and attempt to make visible the ways in which their activities are mediated by class, religion, nationalism and cultural differences. In a brief paper it is not possible to adequately address all aspects of feminist engagement with nationalism and colonialism. Instead, we have had to be selective and focus on some key cites of contestation. In so doing we trace the continuities and changes in feminist protest over the the past one hundred years. The gendered nature of national identity  The lack of attention to gender relations in the formation of collective identity and the development of cultural cohesion has led to large gaps in the theorization of nationalisms (Vickers, 1994). Nira Yuval-Davis (1993) asks why women are 'hidden' in the various theorizations of the nation when women play such a central role in the biological, social, cultural and symbolic reproduction of nations. One reason for the exclusion of women, according to Yuval-Davis, may be the relegation of women to the private domain by classical social contract theorists. Women are, therefore, not seen as contributing to the public, political sphere in which discourses of nation and nationalism take place. The public/private dichotomy is reinforced by the nature/reason dichotomy within which women are identified with nature rather than with the more masculine attributes of reason and aggression that are seen as essential to nation and nationalisms (Grant, 1991 in Yuval-Davis, 1993). A further explanation for the continuing exclusion of women from theories of national identity, is the close identification of women with family rather than with paid 'productive' work which contributes to national GNP etc. Patriarchal nationalist uses of 'woman' as a symbol of nation serve to contain the political potential of women by reinforcing public/private, nature/culture and productive work/non-productive work dualisms. Radhakrishnan (1992) examines the strategic use within nationalism of the insider/outsider dichotomy. He sees this dichotomy as a line of exclusion between the native insider culture and the foreign outsider culture. The latter is deemed negative and seen as a threat to the native  4 culture. The alien culture is frequently presented as immoral, evil and dangerous (Mosse 1985). Mosse makes the point that nationalism not only idealises men but also represents women as the 'guardian of the traditional order' (1985:17). He goes on to say that 'woman as a national symbol was the guardian of the continuity and immutability of the nation, the embodiment of its respectability' (1985:18). The portrayal of women as symbols of the nation renders invisible their everyday work as reproducers and maintainers of the nation's culture. While this is true of nationalist attempts to develop a 'core' Irish national identity in the early decades of this century, the reliance on woman as symbol of tradition is less stable towards the end of this century in the Republic of Ireland. National symbols simplify complex realities and connect nationalist discourses in academic and political spheres to a popular level. For example, the Irish state's use in the 1920s of the symbol of the rural West of Ireland 'cottage' represented the traditional rural family life in which women worked to maintain family life and hence guaranteed the continuity of the nation (Nash, 1993). The rural cottage symbolized 'Irish social organisation in opposition to English culture' (Nash, 1993:39). Gerardine Meaney links this symboli7c representation with the meanings of 'Irishness' in the 1920s when she asserts that '[i]n post-colonial Southern Ireland a particular construction of sexual and familial roles became the very subsistence of what it meant to be Irish' (1991:6). It is important to note here that symbols can be, and are, interpreted differently and deployed in many ways in different interests. It is not possible within the confines of this paper to fully address how symbols are received, challenged and resisted, however, we pay some attention to this in our discussion of feminist resistance to Irish national symbols. Like Anthias and Yuval-Davis (1989) we want to emphasize that roles are not merely imposed upon women, women also participate actively in processes of reproducing, maintaining and modifying their roles in the production of national identities. Feminist challenges to nationalist attempts to construct 'core' national identity in late 19th century, and early 20th century Ireland    5 The use of woman as symbol of Ireland identified both woman and Ireland with nature, and was used by colonist and nationalist alike, as 'Irish nationalism internalised elements of the very colonial culture it struggled to free itself from' (Bell 1993:19). Sabina Sharkey (1994) argues that the gendering of symbols of the Irish nation must be understood within the context of colonialism. 'Ireland', she suggests, 'like other sites of colonization, was gendered female and this rhetorical act engendered a range of further possibilities and strategies within the register of colonial discourse' (1994: 5). Nash (1993) highlights the ways in which the bitter animosity between the Celtic Spiritual revivalists (Anglo Irish, mainly aristocracy) and the Gaelic Irish-Irelanders (nationalist Irish middle classes) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was underscored by a contestation of Irish tradition and a redefinition of women's roles. Two opposing constructions of Irish women emerged which reflected a dichotomy between the Celtic spiritual world on the one hand and the Gaelic Catholic world on the other. Constructions of femininity by cultural nationalists in the early 1900s and later, by the church and new state,... denied women an autonomous sexuality in their idealization of asexual motherhood. The young woman was replaced by the depiction of the old peasant woman who could represent the successful outcome of a life lived in accordance with the demands of motherhood... and way of life extolled in the state (Nash 1993:47).  The new state contributed to a redefinition of the West of Ireland as masculine, wholesome and Catholic. The landscape continued to be represented as feminine but this was now done in such a way as to facilitate a masculine relationship to place. Men were seen as active in relation to a more passive feminine landscape. Here again the symbolic identification of women with reproduction, the body and nature enabled men to define themselves at the level of culture. It would be wrong to give the impression that the nationalists constructions of Irish national identity went unchallenged and uncontested. In our view, one of the most significant critiques of nationalist rhetoric and symbols , in the early twentieth century, came


Feb 7, 2018
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