The International Consortium for the Study of Africans in Ireland (ICSAI) is organizing an interdisciplinary conference on Africa in Ireland: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives at Queen's University Belfast from April 28th to April 29th.
- April 28, 2023 - April 29, 2023
- Senate Room, Lanyon Building & Old Staff Common Room, Lanyon Building
- 08:30 - 17:30
This conference aims to address the historical presence of Africans and the Black diaspora in the past, present, and future on the island of Ireland. It will critically engage with this presence and the convergences of Irish-African cultural, political and religious relationships and connections. How does the presence of African-descended people in Ireland disrupt the notion of Irish monoraciality? How should we theoretically address issues of race in the defining of Irish national identity in light of historical and contemporary Black Irish identities? What is the nature of the relationship between Africa and the African Diaspora in Ireland? What remains of Ireland’s soft religious colonialism and the mission project? How did Ireland’s postcoloniality align with pre- and post-independence subjugated African nations?
Post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, North and South, offers great possibilities to study the “complex, variegated, transitional nature of contemporary Irish experience."  However, whiteness is still the vector through which Irishness is determined. In Ireland, which Luke Gibbons so memorably called “a First World country, but with a Third World memory,”  the African and Black diaspora are confronted by an essentialist discourse of impassable racial demarcation. Though Ireland has never been monocultural, its predominant monoraciality ensures that Irishness is interpellated as white. The existence of whiteness is, as Connolly & Khaoury have argued, the “constitutive and founding elements  of Irishness, and this Irishness is “ethno-racially rigid” .
An additional way to explore and explode the monoraciality of Irish society is through history. Very few studies have looked at the presence of Africans and people of mixed heritage in Ireland, the common street view being that this is a phenomenon connected to the Celtic Tiger and/or post-conflict Northern Ireland, and in good part linked to the refugee question. There is little awareness that Ireland was never wholly white. While a few studies have looked at that past, much work remains to be done, a diachronic understanding and chronology need to be established, and implications need to be explored.
It is important to hear African and African-descent voices in this critical examination. In the study of Ireland’s Black identities and diaspora, as is the case in the rest of Europe, it is necessary to make explicit the authentic and historical specificities of their experiences since they serve to elucidate “global entanglements and trends by tracing the ways in which they are worked out at the personal and local level.” 
 Brown, Terence. 1985. Ireland. A social and cultural history 1922-1985. London: Fontana Press, p. 322.
 Gibbons, Luke. 1996. Transformations in Irish Culture. Cork: Cork University Press, p. 3.
 Connolly, P., & Khaoury, R. 2008. Whiteness, Racism and Exclusion: A Critical Race Perspective. In C. Coulter & M. Murray (Eds.), Northern Ireland After the Troubles: A Society in Transition. Manchester: Manchester University Press, p. 208.
 Lentin, R, & Moreo, E. 2015. Migrant deportability: Israel and Ireland as case studies. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 386, 884–910.
 Aitken, Robbie, & Rosenhaft, Eve. 2013. Black Germany: The Making and Unmaking of a Diaspora Community, 1884-1960. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, p. 3