Call for Papers:

Irreconcilable differences? Peace and Conflict in Irish Literature, Culture, and Politics. 10th Biennial Conference of the Nordic Irish Studies Network (Kristiansand, Norway, 3-4 May 2018)

Irish Studies is a contested field. Much of this can be construed as a healthy sign of differences of opinion or approach, but dissension can also be the source of weakening fragmentation and waste. This conference wishes to address notions of peace and conflict in a constructive manner, in a way that crosses the disciplines of Irish Studies.

When is compromise or unity possible, and when do differences appear to be irreconcilable? This conference wants to explore these questions broadly, engaging Irish literature, culture, and politics. One line of inquiry will be coloured by the various anniversaries occurring in 2018, for instance of the 1998 Belfast Agreement and the cessation of World War I. Do such conflicts find a real resolution, or must rather their aftermath be understood to be contentious and problematic affairs? Comparative accounts of different political conflicts will also be of interest.

Culturally, there is much potential for conflict in terms of for instance gender, class, race, and religion. The issue of abortion is also controversial, as reflected both in previous referenda on the Eighth Amendment of the Irish constitution as well as the one coming up in 2018. Both in a contemporary and a historical perspective, Ireland has been characterized by both overt and more implicit tensions and conflicts within its population. Power struggles, resistance, and marginalization are – as in most body politics – part and parcel of the Irish context. At the same time, this is also a history that includes cultural narratives of dialogue and reconciliation. We welcome papers that address power struggles past and present, in both widely encompassing and more detailed interpretations.

Formally, works of art are frequently cast as sites of conflict, where the parts can to varying degrees be subjected to the controlling forces of artistic intent or contextual pressure. Coventry Patmore’s adage “The end of art is peace” has been appropriated by both W. B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney. But this formula is ambiguous, and harmonizing views of the arts are not without opponents: at least since Romanticism notions of fragmentation and tension have frequently been embraced as aesthetic ideals. We invite papers both on literature and on other arts that deal with such formal issues, exploring both internal and external sources of peace and tension.

The mentioned strands may well be linked together in individual papers. There is, for instance, a novelistic tradition of exploring periods of political tension and stress through domestic or marital friction. Furthermore, the adjudication of dividing lines between the political, cultural, and aesthetic spheres has itself been subject to controversy in Ireland. As NISN’s conferences are meant to embrace a wide field of concerns related to Irish matters, also papers not directly relating to the conference topic may be admitted if they are of sufficient quality.

Abstracts and queries must be submitted by December 15, 2017, to the following email address:

Call for Papers: 

1916: response, recrimination, rejection, redemption?

10th Biennial Conference of the Nordic Irish Studies Network (Oulu, 7-8 October 2016)

 ‘We see that wonder in your eye. We’ll meet again, we’ll part once more. The spot I’ll seek if the hour you’ll find.’

Finland’s role in the Easter Rising is one of the more unknown aspects of that bloody week in the GPO and elsewhere. One of the rebels was a Finn. He was a sailor whose name was later recorded in Kilmainham Gaol as Tony Makapaltis, a rather odd name for a Finn but probably a mishearing of Antti (Toni) Mäkipelto. He had knocked on the window of the GPO with his Swedish matelot friend (name unrecorded) and they asked if they could come in and fight the British. Following the poor handling of a rifle Tony was relegated to filling fruit tins at the back of the main post office hall with explosives and pieces of metal, a nonetheless important task; this was a small struggling nation’s small contribution to another small struggling nation. There were others too, including many British-born Irish like the fabled Johnny ‘Blimey’ O’Connor a Cockney electrician, as well as men and women from Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow; a truly international revolution. Karl Radek famously and eloquently described the Easter Rising as ‘the end of a song … a putsch the English government could easily manage’ (Berner Tagewacht, 9th May 1916, translation). Diarmaid Ferriter reminds us of F. X. Martin’s observation that 1916 ‘was imaginatively planned with artistic vision and with exceptional military incompetence. The revolt was staged consciously as a drama’ (in Ferriter, A Nation and not a Rabble, 2015: 150). The Irish narrative of the nation sees it as a baptism of fire, the blood sacrifice necessary for the birth of the modern nation. But did not the real achievement come with the War of Independence 1919-21 with the IRA representing the popular will of the majority of people in Ireland? Was the Rising doomed to failure even before it had begun and to derail the political processes that were already underway? Was Easter 1916 really necessary when the 1912 Third Home Rule Bill was ready and waiting in Westminster? And what of the Catholic Church’s take on the rising? Pearse posited it as a blood sacrifice, a martyrdom for Ireland, but leading Jesuit theologian Fr. Seamus Murphy has recently attacked it, saying the Rising “might masquerade in Catholic devotional dress, but its meaning, the master who it served, was not the Christian God” (Guardian, 26.03.16). Politically, did the Rising further alienate and entrench the Unionists of Ireland, creating the groundwork for a Home Rule Ulster in a partitioned Ireland, and leading to eighty years of conflict, slaughter and disharmony? If 1916 gave birth to the runt that is amputated, partitioned Ireland, then 1916 may represent political and social failure. The Ireland that was created in the 26 counties after 1921 was, with all its faults, an object of both fierce loyalty and bitter betrayal, inspiring unfulfilled passion and devotion to a largely unwarranted extent.

Most of the British casualties in the Rising were futilely sustained at Mount Street Bridge in Ballsbridge. Remarkable recent comments by leading Sinn Féin politician Mitchel McLaughlin advocate the need to recognise the British victims of the Easter Rising: ‘I equally acknowledge the need to remember the larger numbers of British army personnel, police and civilians who were also killed that week’ (Belfast Telegraph, 15 March 2016). This is surely a statement which challenges the traditionally entrenched status quo and further endorses the recently promoted and championed archipelagisation of the histories of Britain and Ireland and their deeply embedded interrelationship. Perhaps the time has come to finally confront and abandon Lloyd George’s old trope: ‘There is a fatality which pursues the relations between the two countries and makes them eternally at cross purposes’ (Hansard, HC Deb 22 December 1919 vol. 123, 1187). We would therefore welcome contributions which seek to challenge the accepted mores and traditional interpretations of the Rising, as well as its socio-political and historical consequences. Suggested topics may include but are not limited to the following: narratives of the nation, definitions of national identity, anti-Englishness, and the whole plethora of the varied responses to the uprising both in Ireland and further afield. The conference organising committee will also consider paper proposals on any other aspect of Irish Studies.

Abstracts should be max 350 words for presentations of twenty minutes. The deadline for submission of abstracts is 31 May 2016 and they should be sent to John Braidwood ( A reply regarding acceptance will be sent within three weeks after the deadline for submission. Abstracts should be succinct and pithy and not merely an extract from the paper itself. Author information should be provided on a separate sheet, including name, affiliation, contact details, title of paper and an author’s bio of no more than 100 words. A selection of papers will be published in book form later.

The dates of the Oulu conference are Friday 07-Saturday 08 October. Arrival 6 October, departure 9 October, as it is two full days; 3 nights. The venue is here, a very pleasant self-contained conference centre/hotel. The whole conference will happen there and it’s an easy ten minute walk to the city centre. Bed and breakfast is 97.90 Euros/night with access to swimming pool, sauna and gym. Participants are advised to stay at Lasaretti. The conference fee will be around 200 Euros, to include 2 x lunch, 2 x coffee/day and sandwiches/snacks x 2/day as well as the conference dinner at on the Saturday evening. The conference is timed to coincide with Oulu’s famous Irish Festival, now in its eleventh year. See last year’s details here

While I am setting up the website and dedicated email address you can contact me at Please use the exact subject line of NISN Oulu conferen


CFP – NISN 2014, Aalborg University, Denmark

May 7-9, 2014

Ireland and the Popular

Welcome to the 9th biennial Nordic Irish Studies Network conference, which will be hosted by Aalborg University in Denmark. The theme of the conference is ‘Ireland and the Popular.’ The territory of ‘the popular’ is a contested one, not least in an Irish context. While discourses, ranging from politics to aesthetics, regularly claim to know what is popular and why, there is no consensus as to what defines the popular: is it a function of mass and majority, or is it rather an essentialist category springing from the folk tradition of a given region or site?

This problem of definition and delimitation has etymological roots. Popular literally means ‘of the people’, but what of the Germanic alternative to the Latin root ‘populus’: the folk?

This conflict between imaginings of the popular has been thematized in the British and continental European debate about the culture industry, where mass culture was considered evil (because of its capitalist origins and profit-making function) and a corrupting influence on the authentic culture of ‘the folk’, whether urban working class or rural. High or elite culture on the other hand was traditionally considered as having a civilizing or didactic influence on the people (giving them the possibility of becoming ‘cultured’). We thus have a triangle of cultures battling for the domain of ‘the popular’: ‘folk culture’ claiming the territory of the authentic; ‘mass culture’ claiming pride of place for its dominance in terms of volume; and ‘high culture’ claiming dominance because of its didactic capacity and permanent aesthetic value.

The conference seeks to explore the contested ground of ‘the popular’ in an Irish context: The popular vs. the folk; High art vs. folk art; Mass culture vs. elite culture.

Papers on all manifestations of the popular in Irish culture, literature, arts, society and history are welcome. Phenomena to be explored could include, but are obviously not limited to:

  • Popular culture – artefacts and ways of life
  • Folk culture, art and music – authenticity and spokesmanship
  • Magic, the mystical, cunning – Irish myths and mythologies
  • Literature and its positionings vis-à-vis the popular and the elite
  • Pop and compositional music – traditions and tensions
  • The visual iconography of the popular (in media, the street, museums)
  • Stereotypes of Irishness in film, narrative and images
  • Attacks on popular culture, culture debates and wars
  • Representations of the popular in literature and film
  • The idea of ‘the people’ in politics and history
  • Populism and politics

Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be sent by email to Bent Sørensen at the following address: The deadline for submission of abstracts is 1 February 2014. 8th Biannual Conference of the Nordic Irish Studies Network
Authority and Wisdom

DUCIS, Dalarna University, Sweden, 12-14 December 2012

2nd call for papers

The thematic focus of this interdisciplinary conference relates principally to the concepts of authority and wisdom as they apply, and have applied, to the Irish nation in times of change. In recent times, Ireland has witnessed a profound reconfiguration in terms of its cultural, political, constitutional, and religious identities, resulting in an unparalleled questioning of the discourses and narratives that had seemingly defined the nation. The last three decades have witnessed considerable challenges to the moral monopoly and temporal power of the Catholic Church; the introduction of liberal legislation in the realm of private morality; massive immigration (in the 2006 census a tenth of those living in the country had been born elsewhere); the Good Friday Agreement, which attempted to negotiate an end to the endemic and apparently insoluble sectarian conflict afflicting, in particular, Northern Ireland; rampant urban development, which ostensibly eroded the existence of a coherent sense of place, and the development of a free market Celtic Tiger global economy, which – in its rise and inexorable fall – “made Icarus look boringly stable” (Fintan O’Toole).

But the concepts of authority and wisdom are equally relevant in Irish history, where established discourses and narratives have been questioned for generations, resulting in sometimes momentous changes that have inevitably affected how Irish people see themselves as a nation. This conference will attempt to address these questionings of authority and what lessons have been learned from the experiences of the last decades and from history. How can the related concepts of wisdom and authority be seen in light of societal change? What role is played by the Arts, past and present, in providing vital commentaries and ciritical perceptions in relation to Irish identity? How do Irish people see themselves? And how do they wish to live their lives?

Confirmed plenary speakers include Prof. Ciarán Benson, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, UCD School of Psychology, Dublin; Prof. Patricia Coughlan, Professor of English, University College Cork; Emeritus Prof. John Wilson Foster, Honorary Research Fellow, Queen’s University Belfast, and writer Mary O’Donnell.

Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be sent by email to Irene Gilsenan Nordin (, Billy Gray ( and Carmen Zamorano Llena ( The deadline for submission of abstracts is 1 September 2012. Notification of acceptance will be sent by 15 September 2012. A selection of the papers presented at the conference will be published in book form.

For further information about the conference, please check the DUCIS website at

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