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Irish Diasporic Narratives in Argentina

A Reconsideration of Home, Identity and Belonging

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Sinéad Wall

Departure from Ireland has long occupied a contradictory position in Irish national discourse, alternately viewed as exile or betrayal. This book analyses how departure, as well as notions of home, identity and return, is articulated in the narratives of three members of the Irish diaspora community in Argentina: John Brabazon’s journal The Customs and Habits of the Country of Buenos Ayres from the year 1845 by John Brabazon and His Own Adventures; William Bulfin’s series of sketches for The Southern Cross newspaper, later published as Tales of the Pampas (1900) and Rambles in Eirinn (1907); and Kathleen Nevin’s fictional memoir, You’ll Never Go Back (1946). The book examines the extent to which each writer upholds or contests hegemonic constructions of Irishness, as well as exploring how they negotiate the dual identity of emigrant and potential returnee. Each of the three writers, to varying degrees, challenges the orthodox positionings of the Irish diaspora subject as backward-looking and the Irish emigrant as bound to the national territory. Furthermore, they construct multiple subject positions and contradictory notions of Irishness: national, essentialist and homogeneous versus transnational, diverse and plural. Ultimately, their writings contribute to a rich and nuanced reimagining of the Irish emigrant identity.

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Chapter 1: Missionaries, Soldiers and Settlers

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CHAPTER 1

Missionaries, Soldiers and Settlers

‘To live in Ireland in the second half of the nineteenth century was to have the possibility of emigration on one’s personal horizon’.1

‘Would to God that Irish emigrants would come to [Argentina], instead of the United States. Here they would feel at home; they would have employment, and experience a sympathy from the natives very different from what now drives too many of them from the United States back to Ireland’.2

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