How white are Irish women? Why are Irish women 'visible' in the US and 'invisible' in Britain? Notions of diaspora are central to contemporary debates about 'race', ethnicity, identity and nationalism. Yet the Irish diaspora, one of the oldest and largest, is often excluded on the grounds of 'whiteness'. Irish diasporic women are 'invisible', yet their experiences illustrate the complexities of racial and ethnic entanglements in the histories of both the United States and Britain. Outsiders Inside explores the themes of displacement and the meanings of home for these women and their descendants. This work juxtaposes the visibility of Irish women in the United States with their marginalization in Britain. Bronwen Walter challenges linear notions of migration and assimilation by demonstrating that two forms of identification can be held simultaneously. By exploring the life stories of Irish women living in Britain in the 1990's, she traces the inextricable links between gender, ethnicity and place in these diasporic identities.
In an age when the Northern Ireland peace process is rapidly changing global perceptions of Irishness, this book reminds us that gender and race remain powerful subtexts. Outsiders Inside moves the empirical study of the Irish diaspora out of the 'ghetto' of Irish Studies and into the mainstream, challenging theorists and policy-makers to pay attention to the issue of white diversity.
Bronwen Walter is Senior Lecturer in Social Geography at Anglia Polytechnic University, Cambridge. She is a leading researcher of the Irish in Britain.