Thursday 4 June 2020

Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies...

Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies...
Colleagues who know the Irish Diaspora Studies parts of my life will know that I am not a career academic - I am a freelance writer and researcher.  But my kind of writer needs to maintain friendly and supportive relations with academia.  And I do.

Many thanks to those who have noticed that I have taken on a new role, as Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University...

And have sent me good wishes...

I had hoped that, by now, we would be looking back at my first lecture as Visiting Professor - it would very likely have been a Digital Humanities approach to a critical historiography of the Irish Emigrant Letter, something fairly straightforward.  And I would, maybe, have my first seminar groups in place.  But, as we all know, the virus crisis intervened.

I am now in lockdown in my home in Yorkshire.  Words like 'visiting' and 'gathering' have, for the time being, dropped out of use.

Some background, below...

A fond farewell to the Glucksman Ireland House, New York University...
As you know, I have in recent years had a long distance scholarly relationship with the Glucksman Ireland House, New York University.  Long distance but rather lovely.

In a report to Ireland House I said...

'It is not that I do not love you
But your house is so far away...'

(Confucius, Analects IX 30 - Arthur Waley's translation)

For a number of reasons - and health has been one reason - I have, in recent years not been as active as I would have liked, or as active as I should have been, in Irish Diaspora projects and within academia in these islands.  But I have made efforts.  Thus, I attended two major conferences in Ireland, the Global Irish Diaspora Congress, Dublin, August 2017, and the American Conference for Irish Studies, ACIS, Cork, June, 2018.  At both conferences I was able to confer with my NYU colleagues and other old friends.  And I attended a celebration of the career of Joe Lee at the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, in April 2019.  A fascinating socio-cultural experience - Dublin does these things well.

A warm embrace from London Metropolitan University...
Towards the  end of last year, 2019, conversations took place with London Metropolitan University - and I became their Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies.  I am grateful to London Metropolitan University for this interest and support - I especially thank Don MacRaild, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange, and Lynn Dobbs, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of London Metropolitan University.   London Metropolitan University is the kind of university I believe in.  When the news was announced we received a lovely message of encouragement from President Higgins, and Áras an Uachtaráin - in fact, we had to ask him to tone it down a bit.  Too ebullient.

And so to London, the city where I last worked, many decades ago, as a young community worker, probation officer, and social worker, specialising in drug misuse.  I have long had a friendly relationship with London Metropolitan University, staff and students, past and present.  I have often visited the Archives of the Irish in Britain, London Metropolitan University - recently to discuss the final destination of my own archives, and my large research library.  In the longer term there might be synergy between the Archives of the Irish in Britain, at London Metropolitan University, and the Archives of Irish America, at New York University.

In the first months of this year, 2020, I had several meetings in London, rebuilding networks and rebuilding friendships, beginning to put structures and funding in place.  Looking at matters Irish in London and in England, within academia and outside.  Looking at ways to be useful.  I can see the problems, I can see solutions.  But, again, obviously the virus crisis intervened - at the time of writing, May 2020, structures and funding are not in place.

Visit, Gather, Hug...
How we will go from here is not clear.  But we are all saying that. 

I have reached an age, and a stage, where I have to be careful about health and energy levels.  And we should all be saying that.  I will add that the easiest way for me to safeguard my health is to severely ration the amount of time I spend sitting at a computer.

As you will have gathered I was going to approach the new role in London, within London Metropolitan University, quite humbly, cautiously - it is a new role for me, and I wanted to be useful.  However my approach to key issues within Irish Diaspora Studies is...  I will not say, speculative - I will say, meditative.  And I would have liked, for example, to bring together a seminar group, to explore the issues, in a meditative sort of way.

I remain sure that our approach remains useful in the world - interdisciplinary, world-wide, comparative.  And is even more useful in a world that needs a better understanding of the ways in which evidence is constructed and policy developed.  I was looking forward to developing a guest speaker programme - indeed had already reached out to friends.  Visit the Visiting Professor. 

I am a fan of a certain rough and tumble approach to comparative Diaspora Studies - it is welcoming, it makes sense, especially in London - and already lining up were colleagues who study the Cabo Verde diaspora and the Armenian diaspora.

As I say, I was going to start cautiously, with a sensible lecture on the Irish Emigrant Letter.  But maybe I am being too sensible.  Could I go on, wildly, to give an entire week to our Holyhead Project?  And an entire term to our Doneraile Project?  Why not?

So, in lockdown in my home in Yorkshire, I am still writing my notes, tidying my bibliographies, mapping the research, collecting my thoughts.  Writing new songs, of course.  Visit, gather, hug.  We will.

Patrick O'Sullivan

May 30 2020

Visiting Professor of Irish Diaspora Studies, London Metropolitan University
Patrick O'Sullivan's Whole Life Blog
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