Current Call for Papers: Justice on the Island

Nordic Irish Studies Network (NISN) Conference

Åbo Akademi, Finland, 6-7 May 2021

Submissions are invited for presentations at the 2020/21 Conference of the Nordic Irish Studies Network ‘Justice on the Island’, to be held on 6-8 May 2021 at Åbo University, Finland. Due to the ongoing pandemic, provision has also been made for virtual attendance where necessary. Confirmed keynote speakers include Dr Adam Hanna (UCC, Ireland) and the award-winning poet Colette Bryce, and the programme will also include a reading by the Norway-based Irish author David Toms.


Paul Muldoon’s recent poem ‘Corncrake and Curlew’ from Frolic and Detour (2019) ends on a wide- ranging note of justice: ‘The corncrake marvels at the land being green / although the hay’s been saved. The curlew knows the land’s so green / because it’s a mass grave’. The COVID-19 calamity, and the fate of the Tuam babies and the disappeared suggest some of the grave matters of conscience and justice in these final verses. The enigmatic aftermath verdure and the business-minded cynicism pondered and expressed by the two endangered birds also connect the poem to environmental and economic issues. In a cultural context, the almost extinct corncrake and the rare curlew could be seen to represent poetry and the arts. The poem’s last quatrain thus raises some profound and soul-searching questions: What are the most incumbent challenges of justice in Ireland today? For whom? Why? How does literature, the arts and other disciplines relate to the just and the unjust?

Justice presents itself as a philosophical term and contested concept in qualitative inquiry into the humanities and professional practice. Ideals of justice are largely inextricable from human concerns of ethics, morals and philosophy, yet they must face the constant tests of new trials. Justice can be defined as the ceaseless individual responsibility for the victims – past, present and future – of wars and violence, of nationalist, racist, colonialist and sexist injustice, and for all the people who suffer from an unjust world order or established conduct, and everyone who lives under the threat of self-extermination. What is deemed just and right has varied in time and place, in war and peace, in theory and practice. Justice appears in many forms from divine right to religious doxa and natural law, and from metaphysical imperative to human rights and civil disobedience. Frequently, ideas of justice clash with social order and national and international jurisdiction, with political concerns and with the ethos of war, and with pragmatic concerns of many professions and practices. Questions of justice are fundamental in medical care, social work, creative arts, technological development, the practice of law and our daily interaction with family, friends and other people. Justice is a complex term for finding a fair solution to challenges in personal relations, social order and global development in a larger perspective that encompasses philosophy and practice, the past and the future, the local and the universal, the individual and the state.

Health policies, crimes of the past, the mother and baby homes, peace-dividends, environmental issues, inter/national trade agreements, Direct Provision, the state of the prisons, international human rights concerns, Brexit and recent constitutional amendments are only some of the most conspicuous issues of justice in Ireland today. Literature and the arts, in all their protean forms from music and film to painting and theatre, are ideally positioned at the outer boundary of everyday, practical, political or economic pressures to raise, to consider and to react to issues of justice. Stephen Dedalus’s intention to forge in the smithy of his soul the uncreated conscience of his race in Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and the publication of Ulysses on the brink of the constitution of the Irish nation in 1922 can function as timely reminders of the relations between justice and literature

The Nordic Irish Studies Network invites panels and papers on various aspects of justice, literature and the arts, and the relations between them. Proposals are also welcomed on other topics in the interdisciplinary field of Irish Studies that stem directly from the members’ current research interests.

Presentations are strictly limited to 20 minutes (followed by 10 minutes for discussion). Paper proposals of no more than 250 words plus a bio of 50 words should be submitted to Anthony Johnson (; Anne Karhio (, and Ruben Moi (

Please note extended deadline of 23 March 2021!