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Seminar Abstracts

Seminar Abstracts

Spring 2018

Bridge Brownlow (St Mary's University):

Peace Education in a Post-Conflict Society: From Nova Scotia to Northern Ireland - 2001-2018

This seminar will present a comprehensive overview of a long-standing international collaboration between Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Peaceful Schools International and a wide range of primary schools throughout Belfast, Northern Ireland and surrounding areas. This unique partnership has focused on the facilitation of peace education workshops by Saint Mary’s University students representing the faculties of Arts, Science and Commerce respectively.  A panel discussion will feature faculty and administration from Saint Mary’s University who are actively engaged in this program both academically and experientially.   


Muiris MacCarthaigh (QUB): 'From Free State to Crisis State: The evolution of the Irish administration 1922-2015'

Much is known about the political and economic development of the Irish Free State/Republic of Ireland from its inception in 1922. In contrast, the emergence and development of the state’s administrative ‘machinery’ and its changing functions are less well understood. Drawing on a unique longitudinal dataset, this seminar surveys a century of Irish administrative development and shifting political-administrative relationships up to the modern period.


Paddy Gleeson (QUB), ‘Ruling early medieval kingdoms: landscape and governance in the Irish Sea region’ (5 Feb. 2018)

In recent decades there has been a huge surge in scholarship examining assembly places and practices in medieval Europe. These analyses have significantly altered our understanding of early medieval governance and rulership, but corresponding analysis of polities in the Irish sea region has not followed. This seminar examines cognate evidence in early medieval Ireland and western Britain. It will explore the nature of royal power, how kingdoms formed and functioned, and how the material apparatus of rulership informs our understanding of early governance and processes of polity building. 


Chris Colvin (QUB), Matthias Blum (QUB) and Eoin McLoughlin (St Andrews), ‘Ireland’s chosen many: scarring and selection in the Great Irish Famine’. (29 Jan. 2018)

What impact do famines have on survivors? We use individual-level data on a population exposed to severe famine conditions during infancy to document two opposing effects. The first: exposure to insufficient food and a worsened disease environment is associated with poor health into adulthood – a scarring effect. The second: famine survivors do not themselves suffer a detectable health impact – a selection effect. Anthropometric evidence from records pertaining to over 21,000 subjects born before, during and after the Great Irish Famine (1845-52), one of modern history’s most severe famine episodes, suggests that selection is strongest where famine mortality is highest. Individuals born in heavily-affected areas experienced no measurable stunted growth, while significant scarring was found only among those born in regions where the same famine did not result in any excess mortality.


Liam Kennedy (QUB), ‘Before childhood, after death: Irish mothers reflect on the fate of unbaptized infants’ (22 Jan. 2018)

“I was the eldest of ten children. But in 1954 I had a sister born named Marian (as it was Marian year in Ireland). She was born on a Saturday but died the next day. As was customary then my Dad had to take her little body late at night well after dark to an old graveyard and on the perimeter of the graveyard my Dad had to bury her with no grave markings (an unknown grave). But at the time he made a little cross shape tied together with twine, made from two sticks and stuck them in the ground. Every year my Dad used to take me to Marian’s grave to say a little prayer. He used to say she was a little angel in Limbo.”
- Testimony of a mother born in 1948

Children growing up in the Ireland of the 1950s will have a clear remembrance of a metaphysical space or place known as Limbo. For Catholics, though not Irish Protestants, this formed part of a spiritual cosmos which viewed Heaven and Hell as opposite poles, with Purgatory and Limbo occupying rather vaguely defined intermediate positions. Fast forward to the present day and hardly any of those born in the new millennium will have the slightest notion of what Limbo was (or is). Yet for generations of families, going back to the dawn of Christianity, there was the fear that failing to baptise an infant before death meant that the infant was condemned either to Hell or to a shadowy existence in a place labelled Limbo. Thus the belief, and associated practices such as the prohibition on burying unbaptised bodies in consecrated ground, is one that is replete with emotional, social, theological and gender implications. This paper looks at how Irish mothers look back on these beliefs and their own experiences of Limbo, baptism, churching and the disposal of unbaptised babies. It wonders how and why a deep tradition within the Christian world, and Irish society more particularly, should disappear so quickly and so completely. Was it a decline in infant mortality, was it social change more generally, or was it theological change? Furthermore, might the decline in almost-immediate baptism be an early indicator of secularisation in Irish society?