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Irish Diasporic Narratives in Argentina

A Reconsideration of Home, Identity and Belonging


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 5: Kathleen Nevin: (En)Gendering Diaspora and the ‘Tainted’ Returnee


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Kathleen Nevin: (En)Gendering Diaspora and the ‘Tainted’ Returnee

‘Women have left Ireland in search of life opportunities, sexual liberation and career advancement […] as a means of personal survival and of contributing to the survival of their family in Ireland […] they have left voluntarily and involuntarily, by chance and because others were leaving’.1

‘It is evident that, having made a little money, they seldom come home to add to their stores of the old hive from which they were earlier expelled the wax gathered in distant regions. By the time it is possible, their roots are struck too deep in alien soil’.2

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