The Ends of Ireland – forthcoming conference

 ‘The Ends of Ireland’

This year, the conference of the Irish Studies Association of Australia and New Zealand (ISAANZ) comes to Sydney for the first time. Hosted by the Global Irish Studies Centre (GISC) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), the four-day conference will be the biggest academic Irish event in the southern hemisphere during 2013.

Held at UNSW’s Kensington campus, 4–7 December, this meeting of researchers from around the world will address the theme ‘The Ends of Ireland’. Much that was familiar about Ireland and the Irish experience—the Troubles, the Celtic Tiger, and the dominance of Catholicism—has come or is coming to an end in recent times. On the other hand, Ireland continues to extend its global ‘ends’—or reach—via mass communication, cultural exchange and an active and growing diaspora. The conference at UNSW Sydney aims to interrogate these events and all the many meanings and implications of Ireland’s ‘ends’, temporal, theoretical and physical.

The first Call for Papers is open until 17 May 2013. Anyone interested in submitting an academic paper on ‘The Ends of Ireland’, or any aspect of Irish Studies, should see the conference website for full details and submission guidelines. Postgraduate students and early-career researchers are especially encouraged to send abstracts for consideration. The conference organisers Professor Rónán McDonald and Dr Gemma Clark are delighted, in the mean time, to announce some conference details and confirm keynote lectures by four world-renowned scholars of Ireland and the Irish around the world.

The conference’s opening keynote lecture will serve also as the GISC’s Annual Patrick O’Farrell Memorial Lecture, a flagship public address on any aspect of Irish history in honour of the pre-eminent historian of Irish-Australia, and UNSW Scientia Professor, Patrick O’Farrell. The GISC welcomes Professor Joanna Bourke, whose wide-ranging and internationally celebrated work began in the field of Irish History, as keynote speaker and POF Memorial Lecturer. Joanna is Professor of History at Birkbeck College, University of London, where she has taught since 1992. During that time she has published prolifically on British, American and Australian societies from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries, adding greatly to our understanding of subjects (violence, the body, the emotions) central to human experience. She is the author of An Intimate History of Killing (1999), which won the Wolfson Prize and the Fraenkel Prize, Fear: A Cultural History (2005), Rape: A History from the 1860s to the Present (2007) and What it Means to be Human: Reflections from 1791 to the Present (2011). Drawing on research carried out for her recent Wellcome Trust-funded Pain Project, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2014, Professor Bourke will lecture on ‘The Ends of Pain: Reflections on the Meaning of Violence in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Ireland’. She asks what meaning is given to violence (and, specifically, acts of injury) in Irish history? Her lecture addresses the wounded body within the spheres of the home, community, and nation. It suggests that narratives of corporeal pain perform a particular teleological function within Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The conference also brings to Sydney Associate Professor Tom Inglis, an acclaimed sociologist who has written on globalisation, secularisation and sexuality in modern Ireland. Based at University College Dublin for over twenty years, Tom’s books have included Moral Monopoly (1987 and 1998), Lessons in Irish Sexuality (1998) and Global Ireland: Same Difference (2008). In recent years, he has developed his research interests in the sociology of the emotions, especially Love, the title of a book published in Routledge’s Shortcuts series, in 2013. Professor Inglis’s keynote lecture, entitled ‘The End of Irish Difference?’, argues that the core of Irish cultural ‘difference’ lies in the body and is linked to the way in which Irish society modernised. Continuing high birth rates gave rise to peculiar forms of discipline and punishment that revolved around a disdain for sex, pleasure and desire. This led to the incarceration of cultural deviants, the separation of men and women, and the dominance of the pub.

These important interventions in History and Sociology, from voices from the northern hemisphere, will be complemented by lectures from two of Australia’s leading academics working in Irish Studies and its cognate fields. In his lecture, ‘The Ends of Silence: Child Abuse, Church and Government in Ireland and Australia’, Professor Mark Finnane will examine the respective political, jurisdictional and institutional arrangements in these two countries that both hinder and enable the establishment of official inquiry into child abuse, including sexual abuse. In considering what enabled the silencing of these crimes, Mark will explore the two domains that have benefited from their claims to privacy in the face of demands for scrutiny—childhood and the church. He asks if the age of inquiry into child abuse is also the age in which we are seeing the end of the social understanding that has preserved such domains from external scrutiny? ARC Australian Professorial Fellow and Professor of History at Griffith University, Mark has published widely on mental illness, policing, punishment and criminal justice, in books including Insanity and the Insane in Post-Famine Ireland (1981 and 2003), Police and Government: Histories of Policing in Australia (1994) and, with Heather Douglas, Indigenous Crime and Settler Law: White Sovereignty after Empire (2012). He is also Chief Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security (established 2007) where he leads a project on ‘Historical Threats’, investigating the changing political, institutional, legal and social conditions that characterise modern institutions and discourses of policing and security. It is, indeed, the vital contemporary resonances of Professor Finnane’s research that make his a keenly anticipated keynote lecture at ‘The Ends of Ireland’.

Regulars at the ISAANZ conference will also be delighted to hear of the return of past president of the Association, Professor Elizabeth Malcolm, to deliver a keynote lecture. Elizabeth stepped down from the presidency in 2012, after eight years in this post. Her presence at this, the first conference under the directorship of ISAANZ’s new president, Rónán McDonald, is the perfect opportunity for Irish Studies scholars to honour Elizabeth’s contribution to the Association and celebrate her long career. She is well known and respected for her work on the histories of Ireland, Australia and Irish-Australia, having published on gender, violence, police, crime and mental health in numerous journal articles and books, including The Irish Policeman, 1822–1922: A Life (2006). At the conference in December, Elizabeth will present on the new archival research that she is undertaking since her recent retirement from the Gerry Higgins Chair of Irish Studies, University of Melbourne.

Elizabeth completes a stellar line-up of four conference keynotes that promise to make ‘The Ends of Ireland’ in Sydney the start of a great new debate in global Irish Studies. Plenary sessions will be accompanied by a full and varied schedule of themed panels; workable panel topics might include, for example, ‘The Irish in New South Wales’, ‘Commemoration and the Uses of Irish History’, ‘Ireland and Modernism’. The conference also presents GISC the opportunity further to develop and disseminate its current research projects, on Irish-Aboriginal encounters (anyone interested in participating in a discussion on the relationships between Irish settlers in Australia and the country’s Aboriginal peoples should contact the conference organisers), and ‘Irish Anzacs’, an investigation of Irish-born members of the Australian Imperial Force, funded by the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Program.

The presentation and discussion of cutting-edge research in formal settings (lectures and panels) will be complemented by evening entertainment and other opportunities for independent researchers, students and academics from around the world to make new connections and catch up with old friends and colleagues. The social program will comprise events both on campus and in Sydney’s CBD, including a reception at the Irish Consulate. The ISAANZ conference has always been a lively forum for Irish Studies enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds—including members of the host institution’s local Irish community—to mix and share ideas. Recently elected President of ISAANZ and conference organiser, Rónán McDonald, and committee member and co-organiser, Gemma Clark, hope that young scholars in particular will be attracted to this major academic event. Registration will open shortly via the website, with a greatly reduced fee available for postgraduate students.

Based in Sydney, the beautiful harbour city that was an ‘end’ for many generations of Irish emigrants, this year’s ISAANZ conference promises to be an excellent opportunity for academic, social and cultural exchange.

Gemma Clark and Rónán McDonald
Dr Gemma Clark, the Sarah Sharkey Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Global Irish Studies Centre, University of New South Wales, and Professor Rónán McDonald, the Centre’s Director, are convening the 20th ISANNZ conference, at UNSW Sydney.