We have no way of living in a place, we have no way of belonging to that place, unless we continue to imagine it.
-- Eavan Boland, Imagining Ireland
This book represents a cross section of the growing volume of research on women and politics throughout the island of Ireland. The conferences at which much of the material was first presented were organised under the aegis of the Political Studies Association of Ireland and have drawn together subject specialists from a variety of disciplines on both sides of the border. This invisible college of social scientists, historians, theorists, and, occasionally, practitioners of politics has in a small way contributed to the imagining and reimagining of the places and spaces allocated to, aspired toward, or seized by (and for) women.
Much of contemporary feminist imagining has been inspired by the belated and, in some respects, painful recognition of diversity within the wider women's movement (see Roulston, Chapter 1 in this volume). Although the celebration of the variety of herstories and lived experiences has been perceived by some to threaten an immanent unity among women, it can also be construed as a sign of a healthy and maturing discourse. Shedding a sanguine belief in sameness has meant the imaginative acceptance of difference, creating the freedom to interrogate feminism(s) and to explore anew the commonalities that may and can exist among women and that find novel, protean forms of political expression (see Hinds, Chapter 7, and O 'Donovan and Ward, Chapter 6). In an important sense this appreciation of difference suggests that women are increasingly challenging and escaping the patriarchal snares of modernist doctrines, including nationalism(s) (see Ward, Chapter 13).
Indeed, what for many is the unfinished business of Irish nationalism casts its shadow over this text -- not in the sense of the legitimacy or otherwise of the pursuit of a united Ireland but rather because of the ways in which republicanism, nationalism, unionism, and loyalism alike have disadvantaged women, thereby qualifying any unreflective belief that these