Wild workhouse girls and the liberal imperial state in mid-nineteenth century Ireland

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Abstract

This article is about an 1860 riot in a South Dublin workhouse, when sixteen-year-old girls assaulted workhouse officials so violently they could only be pacified by the police. When a Roman Catholic chaplain was fired for defending the girls, he became a cause celebre for the Catholic church. The church, together with lady reformers such as Louisa Twining, attacked the cold machinery of the British state and envisioned new ways of bringing up children. This incident reveals the tensions within nineteenth-century liberal governmentality, to use Foucault's term, between an idea of the individual as a subject of an institution, and an individual as a self-governing subject. The state also relied on religious and female philanthropists to supplement its disciplinary institutions, but these agents could also use their participation to challenge the state. This tension was particularly acute in Ireland, symptomatic of the problems of colonial modernity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-409+598
JournalJournal of Social History
Volume39
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005

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