Ireland, Gender and Postcolonialism



Introducing the recent supplementary volume to The Oxford History of the British Empire, entitled Gender and Empire, the editor, Philippa Levine, reminds us that ‘one of the lessons of feminist history has been about the dangers of too readily assuming that group identifications always work’ (2004: 2). Just as patriarchal, imperial and national discourses served to naturalise, and to abstract, multifarious racial, confessional, and gendered lives, reactionary and oppositional critiques of such historical, and contemporary, representations cannot be founded upon equivalent universalist principles. Wholesale appropriation of an unmodulated ‘female’ experience, or ‘femininity’, is, assuredly, a replicative and, consequently, self-defeating tactic. In broaching gendered histories and contemporary lives there must be an apprehension of gender as something that ‘does not stand alone or somehow “above” other factors, such as class and race’ (Levine, 2004: 2). If gendered readings within postcolonial studies are to have any purchase, then their relationships with the hierarchical cultural politics and economic structures of global capitalism must be mediated with due concern for differential contextual specifics. As Levine further states: ‘In particular, the emphasis on inequalities, which gendered interpretations necessarily highlight, remind us that other important divisions also structure colonialism.


Feminist Theory Irish Study Irish Woman Irish Context Nationalist Movement 
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  1. 1.
    Paul Carter, The Road to Botany Bay: an essay in spatial history ( London: Faber and Faber, 1987 ), p. 326.Google Scholar

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© Eóin Flannery 2009

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