British Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies Conference, Savannah GA 2020

Thought I’d get some writing finished, considering we’re all going to be quarantined for the foreseeable! At least it’ll help the productivity!

I presented my research in February at the 29th British Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies conference at the DeSoto hotel in Savannah, GA, organised by the Postcolonial Literature department at Georgia State University. The conference was presented over two days, my panel Postcolonial Ireland was on day one. A link to my presentation is here.

On day one, the first panel I attended was Postcolonial Collective Traumas which looked at collective traumas in a literary sense through the lens of post-colonialism and looking at grief as analogous to slavery. The overall arc of this panel was to show that trauma transpires from the individual to the collective and that the legacy of slavery is still embedded in the collective experience. There were a couple of authors mentioned that I definitely need to check out, among them Roger Lockhurst, Lacapra and John Peterson. My second panel on day one was Cross-cultural and Cross-Genre Approaches which looked at postcolonial literature set in and around India and the Indian experience. The third panel of day one was my one; Postcolonial Ireland. I was on this panel alongside E. Moore Quinn and Rebecca Ziegler. Moore spoke about seasonal migration from Ireland to England by women and Rebecca spoke about postcolonial perspectives of the historical Jesus. I was asked a really interesting question after my talk about the link between nostalgia and trauma, which I definitely need to do some more research into. The last panel of day one I went to was Women Confronting Empire: Nature, Bodies, Food. This panel looked at situated versus un-situated knowledge and transnational diasporas, “diaspora that destabilizes national identities” (Goya), the concept of the Americanah as Chimanda Nigozi Adhiche defined it and migratory subjectivity (Carole Boyce Davis). Identity is a political process and experience and is not formed within one specific locale. The last talk of day one was a keynote by postcolonial author and academic Robert JC Young. Young’s talk was primarily on his work on the historical roots of hybridity as it pertains to the colonised subject and the postcolonial outsider. He spoke about plural linguism, Said’s critique of the euro-centrist depiction of the east and language as a construct of the colonial project. This talk will definitely be useful for my thesis research as I am looking at hybridity in the postcolonial subject.

Day two began with a workshop on Narrative, Pedagogy and Literature. This workshop was on data analysis and using various tools for pedagogic learning and teaching. This was super useful to see the different was researchers analysed their data and to also see teaching methods in academia. The second workshop of the day was The New Imperial Neo-liberalism:Media, Policy and New Avenues in Postcolonial Research; An Interactive Workshop on Integrating New Media into Your Research. This workshop started with the participants being asked to write three sentences about what their research is, which helped me to focus down my ideas a lot. Chris Cartwright from Georgia Southern University who was giving the workshop says that postcolonial research must be accessible, multi-textual, intersectional and socially engaged; which is something I definitely agree with. New media used in research is participatory, fragmented (the same story retold) and converging. Chris used to the example of King Solomon’s Mines from 1885 to illustrate that research texts in this vein must have characters, stories (events), settings (place), themes (ideas) and aesthetics (discourses). He used a lot of literary text examples, among them Treasure Island, The Rhodes Colossus and Heart of Darkness. The last panel of the second day (and the last one I went to) was Imperial Ideologies in 20th Century British Literature. This panel looked at postcolonial themes in British literary texts and liberal humanism versus capitalist and imperialist modernity. Colonial trauma was referenced throughout the panel and Cesaire’s discourses on colonialism were mentioned by all three panelists. Carol Dell’Amico spoke about Jean Rhys and wartime ethnography in the late modernist project. She also spoke about how Greenwich Mean Time was a form of colonial oppression; how the colonised being is a divided one; the two parts of the colonised individual: desiring to be a white man and being separated from his community; how the newly liberated slaves sometimes gained psychosis and how in the colonial situation, everyone is a slave (in the Hegelian master/slave dialectic sense). She also points out that violence against the settler is the native’s work, the native is the agent of change and freedom is only achieved through capital.

All in all a very productive and fruitful three days. (Day three was spent wandering around Savannah and then Uber-ing to the airport)




Process #1

My absence on the blog lately can be explained by attempting to pass my degree (haven’t yet, so posting might still be a bit sporadic). I’m starting a new series, looking at what I’m reading at the moment, which also ties into my current research interests and writing so I suppose I’ll just combine all that into one series – reading, researching and writing in one!

I’ve been researching and working on my graduate project which is titled “Is e Eire mo Bhaile”, which means “Ireland is my home”, in Irish. To that end, this post is about what I’m doing to research this project.


Rodinsky’s Room – Rachel Lichtenstein & Iain Sinclair

Lichtenstien and Sinclair take a very upbeat stance on the disappearance of David Rodinsky and trace this through the archive of ephemera left behind in his room in Whitechapel. The book traces Lichtenstien’s research of Rodinksy through writing and photography and gives a good example of a book using both photography and writing to illustrate.

The Photograph – Graham Clarke

Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma – Ulrich Baer

The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning – James Young

The Painter of Modern Life – Charles Baudelaire

On the Natural History of Destruction – WG Sebald

The Pivot of the World: Photography and it’s Nation – Blake Stimson

The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories – John Tagg

Photography Degree Zero: Reflections on Roland Barthes Camera Lucida – Geoffery Bachen

These books deal with the photographic image as carrier of memory, the memorialisation of the journey, the journey itself, the ontology of the image and photographic archives.

Images of the final book and project itself to follow.









New directions

My current body of work is continuing my research practice into notions of identity and “Irishness” (see artist statement). As such, I’m concentrating my current body of work around Irish emigrants and second-generation Irish who live in London. This project aims to explore the theme of “home” and what this means to people who are not necessarily in a place they call home. The concepts of what and where home is will be explored through a photographic project using medium format analogue photography and transcribed interviews. I plan to document my research and process on this blog for research and my personal blog for process images.

Stay tuned for research and process images and info

Human Heart in a Heart-shaped Cist, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

The strongest reference I have found for my current body of work (which centers around the autobiographical, museological display and the Irish experience) is an object housed at the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford University.

The Pitt Rivers museum, founded in 1884, is a museum of anthropology and world archeology.  Its collections include materials by peoples from cultures around the world and from throughout history. While the focus of the Museum is on human cultures and how different peoples have solved the problems of everyday life, the collections include human remains acquired to show some aspect of culture, such as burial customs. 

The artifact that I am researching is one with the object number 1884.57.18, a human heart in a heart shaped cist.

Human Heart in a Heart Shaped Cist

(Click on the image to go to more information)

This object is particularly interesting as it raises questions for me about colonialism, burial practices and artifact studies.

This object, according to the Pitt Rivers website, was found in the basement of a church in county Cork, Ireland by General Pitt-Rivers on one of his expeditions to the country in the 1880s. This raises various questions about why Pitt-Rivers decided to extract this object from its current location and house it in a foreign museum; is colonialism to blame for this object and other objects being housed in British museums; do objects being housed in foreign museums help the discourse around such objects and themes to be opened up to an audience that would otherwise have not been exposed to it?

A sound file of the curator talking about this object can be found here.

I’ll be going further into these themes in subsequent posts as this research and project progresses so watch this space.


Research interests

At the moment, my research centers around the autobiographical; post-colonialism, musicological display, artifact studies and the Irish experience. My next project centers around an Irish artifact found under a church in County Cork but housed in The Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford University, England.

My next post will go more in depth about this object