Deconstructing whiteness: Irish women in Britain

Walter, Bronwen and Hickman, Mary J. (1995) Deconstructing whiteness: Irish women in Britain. Feminist Review, 50 (1). pp. 5-19. ISSN 1466-4380

Full text not available from this repository.
Official URL:


The Irish are largely invisible as an ethnic group in Britain but continue to be racialized as inferior and alien Others. Invisibility has been reinforced by academic treatment. Most historians have assumed that a framework of assimilation is appropriate and this outcome is uncritically accepted as desirable. Sociologists on the other hand have excluded the Irish from consideration, providing tacit support for the 'myth of homogeneity' of white people in Britain against the supposedly new phenomenon of threatening (Black) 'immigrants'. Focus on the paradigm of 'colour' has limited the range of racist ideologies examined and led to denial of anti-Irish racism. But an analysis of nineteenth-century attitudes shows that the 'Irish Catholic' was a significant Other in the construction of the British nationalist myth. Despite contemporary forgetting, hostility towards the Irish continues, over and above immediate reactions to recent IRA campaigns. Verbal abuse and racial harassment are documented in London and elsewhere, but unacknowledged. The masculine imagery of 'Paddy' hides the existence of Irish women in Britain, although they have outnumbered men since the 1920s. In America, by contrast, there is a strong stereotype of 'Bridget' and her central contribution to Irish upward mobility is recognized. But invisibility does not protect Irish women in Britain from racism. Indeed, they are often more exposed since their productive and reproductive roles connect more firmly to British society. Moreover, women have played a key role in maintaining Catholic adherence, which continues to resonate closely with Irishness and difference.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Irish, whiteness, Britishness, racism, invisibility, assimilation
Faculty: ARCHIVED Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Repository Admin
Date Deposited: 30 May 2013 12:50
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 16:19

Actions (login required)

Edit Item Edit Item