Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
Convent Schools, National Identity and Emancipation:the Influcence of Local and Transnational Contexts
Deirdre Raftery

Última modificación: 2017-07-17


In my published work, I have argued that the history of Sister teachers and convents can be enriched by deploying theoretical perspectives, which are sometimes adaped from sociology and athropology. In this paper I use the optic of transnationalism, as I tease out how convent schools were locations where the ‘national identity’ of Sister teachers could shift and change depending on the political and geographical contexts in which the schools operated.  In turn, and perhaps surprisingly, convent schools sometimes became covert sites for promoting the political emancipation of Ireland from Britain.

Scholars - including Trethewey, Whitehead, Richardson, Goodman, McCulloch, and Bakker - generally agree that the concept of transnationalism ‘opens the way to exploring the rotation of people and ideas beyond national boundaries’. Similarly, Bakker has pointed to the importance of understanding the ‘transnational circulation of pedagogical ideas and concepts’ In this paper, the conceptual tool of transnationalism allows this author to explore how the national identity of Irish-born Sister teachers, from a sample of religious orders, transcended ‘time and location’. The religious orders examined in the paper were all involved in global education initiatives, which were broadly constructed as ‘missionary activity’ in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It will be seen that the sample of Irish-born Sisters moved from country to country, transmitting cultural and political ideas across geographical boundaries.

What impact did this have on understandings of ‘Irishness’ in British colonies were Irish-born Sister teachers ran thousands of schools? Tentative findings will be discussed, including data from a new funded research project, ‘UNVEILED: Irish-born women religious in the revolutionary period’. Drawing on the archives of several congregations, the research has found that the political and national sympathies of women who entered convents were not jettisoned when they took religious vows. Many transmitted their own sympathies to their pupils, just as they communicated their own ‘version’ of Irish and British history. Although they moved from country to country, as part of their missionary work in education, a distinctly ‘Irish’ inflection can be found in their teaching and co-curricular work in convent schools. Further, in Irish convents, narratives of political emancipation could be found not only in the classroom but in the very fabric of convent life: convents were often ‘safe houses’ for revolutionaries who were ‘on the run’, and some convent schools were known for the strong nationalist sympathies of the women who ran them.

The paper presents material that has not been explored elsewhere. It draws on original archival data, to present a nucanced version of convent schooling that allows for national and transnational considerations in a discussion of identity and emancipation.