Negotiating identities : Irish women religious and migrations
As the population of Ireland continued to decline in the post-independent period, the number of women entering religious life rose substantially, reaching a peak in the late 1960s. Many of these women lived some or all of their lives outside Ireland. However, despite the recent growth of Irish migration or diaspora studies, very little attention has been given to the role or experience of Irish women religious, who themselves tend not to publish subjective accounts. This is undoubtedly the case with respect to Irish women's migration to England in the twentieth century. Based on the oral history testimonies of twenty-one Irish women religious, this thesis seeks to explore this under-researched area. It focuses specifically on subjectivity and identity formation; on the ways in which Irish women religious have inhabited, negotiated and contested a sense of self as Irish, as women and as Catholics/religious over the course of their lives and in the context of the societies in which they have lived. Utilising various theories, it looks at the complex ways in which subjectivities are formed and displayed, taking account of the role the women play in constructing a self identity as well as other contributing factors, such as how the women feel they are positioned by others and their socio-historical situation. In allowing the voices of Irish women religious to be heard, this thesis challenges the stereotype of religious as silent, without a voice. By focusing on a group of women thus far disregarded, it contributes to our knowledge not only of women religious but Irish women's migration more generally, providing new insights for this expanding area of research.