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Heroes, victims or villains? Irish Presentations and Representations in Latin America and the Caribbean

Morelia, Mexico, 15-18 July 2009

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(Un)settling the Irish emigrant identity: Reconstructing Irish identity in the travel narratives of Kathleen Nevin and William Bulfin

Wall, Sinead (University of Westminster)

Through an examination of the travel works of William Bulfin, Tales of the Pampas (1900) and Kathleen Nevin's You'll Never Go Back this paper considers the representation of the Irish in Argentina and the contribution of these narratives in the construction of identity and the reconstruction of the emigrant identity into an exilic one.

Escaping one colonial framework (Britain/Ireland), travelling to and writing from within another postcolonial construct (Argentina and the Spanish Empire), this paper analyses how Bulfin and Nevin use language as a tool to construct, and even invent, an Irish identity.  This identity is inextricably linked to home and the desire to return there. Despite this desire, Argentina becomes internalised to some extent, which in Bulfin can be seen in the mix of the Spanish, English and Irish languages in his stories, highlighting that the Irish were doing with language what they had already done with their lives; trying to adapt it to their new situation. In Nevin, the contrast between us and them (Irish and 'Native') demonstrates her attempts to shape an exilic rather than emigrant mentality. Through these texts I analyse how Argentina never quite becomes a new home, but a place where Irish identity is played out and acquires form.


The Society for Irish Latin American Studies

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