Reflections on Ireland’s ‘home(s)’
Shame, stigma, and grievability
in Legacies of the Magdalen Laundries
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What is a home? How are ‘homes’ related to ‘homelands’? And how do women and children figure therein? In this chapter, I explore the gendered nature of home and nation, and the role ideas of maternal homeland played in modern Ireland. Building on previous work highlighting the entanglement of Irish nationalist identity-formation and institutionalisation, I theorise Irish institutions, ‘homes’ as they are and were called, as sites of ‘not-home’ that demarcated legitimate Irish subjects from ‘illegitimate’ children and their ‘not-mothers’. My analysis centres on the deployment of shame and stigma in the institutionalising of women and children, and draws on Judith Butler’s concept of ‘grievability’ to examine the linkages between gender, nation, and institutionalisation. I focus, specifically, on two cases: the finding of many infant remains at Tuam Mother and Baby Home, and the handling of human remains at High Park Magdalen Laundry. My reading of these cases draws out how certain women’s and children’s lives were established as less grievable, and shows how this fed into a gendered politics of shame that resulted in the continuous material and symbolic hiding and erasure of women and children – the consequences of which we still live with today.

Legacies of the Magdalen Laundries

Commemoration, gender, and the postcolonial carceral state

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