Previous courses

The Politics of Memory and Commemoration in Ireland

Spring 2016.

In the context of the centennial of the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916, the director of the centre for Irish Studies Sara Dybris Mcquaid taught an elective course at MA level on the legacy of 1916. The students explored how the Easter Rising in 1916 came to be the cultural carrier that summarises the essence of Irish history and identity, and how the 'martyrs of the Republic' came to embody the ideals and spirit of the nation across generations. They examined the memorialisation of the Easter Rising as a foundational myth in shaping and contesting national identity in the tensions between the past, present and future; between official discourses and vernacular discourses; between political discourses and artistic expression.

The main theoretical framework for the course was derived from the interdisciplinary field of memory studies, drawing on methods from cultural studies, social science and history. The course consisted of seminars and included a field trip to Dublin to observe the commemorations of 1916.

Students doing structured activities.
Banners across Dublin.

What is History now?

Spring 2015.

Taught by the director of CISA Sara Dybris McQuaid

 This MA course was about the history of history in Britain and Ireland. Throughout this course the students analysed the fragmentation and reassembling of historical studies in asking the question ‘What is history now?’. They examined theoretical and methodological trends by exploring sub-disciplines such as Social History; Cultural History; Political History; Imperial History; Gender History and Transnational History as they have played out in modern and contemporary British and Irish historical scholarship.

Throughout this course the studens gained an understanding of historical trends in theory and method and identified and explained those shifts as well as synthesizing and analysing the major themes in the debates of the historiography of modern and contemporary British and Irish history. The knowledge of the content and historiography of that topic area was placed into a regional and global context, and the students gained an understanding of relevant research methodologies relevant to modern and contemporary British and Irish history, including theory, interdisciplinary approaches and analysis of available primary sources.

'Pack up your Troubles': The Peace Process in Northern Ireland

Spring 2014.

Sara Dybris McQuaid

This course analysed the facets of the conflict in Northern Ireland and the  patterns of its resolution. The analytical focus was on the current peace process (1994+) and the tentative transition from a society in conflict to a society emerging from conflict. A transition that has involved mediation by Bill Clinton and U2’s Bono, seen paramilitaries turned into social workers, and witnessed formerly sworn  political enemies joined in power sharing government.

The fundamental principles of the peace process in Northern Ireland are now being hailed as groundbreaking and exported to divided societies around the world as a blueprint for conflict resolution. To the international community the case is closed. However, in Northern Ireland itself, stark divisions persist, disillusionment and violence lurk right under the surface and are exacerbated by the current slump in the economy. The process of societal  reconstruction and reconciliation is proving to be every bit as difficult and lengthy! as negotiating the political peace agreement was. This calls for a reappraisal of the reigning ethno-national interpretation of the conflict and its solution.

This course adressed questions such as: What are the seemingly perpetual themes and dynamics of the conflict? How do the various parties to the conflict understand and explain it in historical and contemporary contexts?When,how and by whom has the conflict been transformed during the peace process? What are the  post conflict challenges?

Conflicts on Parade: Acts of Violence, Men of Violence, Victims of Violence

Fall 2013.

Sara Dybis McQuaid

This BA course examined the pervasive tradition of paramilitary parades in Northern Ireland, where acts, men, and victims of violence are commemorated. These parades play an important part in rallying sections of the population, rehearsing the living visceral memory of violent conflict as well as re-establishing the perceived ‘other’. In this vein, remembering becomes a mechanism for deepening divisions in which conflict is quite literally ‘re-membered’ and replenished. Understanding the binding functions provided by certain political and epistemological narratives (Brown 2001) is tantamount to transforming them. In the theoretical intersection between the ‘politics of identity’ and the ‘politics of memory’, this research focuses on drawing lessons from cultural scripts and political interventions, where state or civil society actors actively aim to reimagine the past in ways that can redraw the cognitive and emotive maps for conflict and act as a restorative rather than a destructive force in political transitions. Correspondingly, initiatives to, ‘monitor’, ‘steward’, ‘intervene’, ‘re-route’, ‘prohibit’ and even ‘remodel' parading, was explored as important contributions to conflict transformation. 

As part of this course the students wrote their final BA projects. They had the opportunity of writing it as an ordinary essay but also as a contribution to the research developed by Sara Dybris McQuaid at the Centre for Resolution of conflict on protracted conflict specifically the role of the past in defusing rather than regenerating conflict and violence.

Four Nations and a Funeral?


Sara Dybris McQuaid

This course charted the historical formations and contemporary transformations of Great Britain from the early 18th century to the present day. Why and how did the constituent parts of Britain unite? Does a common British identity exist? Might Britain disintegrate?

One of the most important debates in Britain today is about the nature and future of Britain and ‘Britishness’. The state which underpinned British identity is no longer the confident structure it once was. The nations that make up the United Kingdom are challenging the central government from below and pushing for ever more independence. In this context the British state is struggling to present a convincing narrative of common purpose and project as well as of shared identity.

The process of devolution was supposed to satisfy the nationalist demand for stronger self-determination whilst preserving the Union. However, it has also created a centrifugal effect where the nations are driven apart and increasingly identify as Scots, Welsh, English and Northern Irish rather than British. The course examines this tension between the idea of the Union (unionism) and the claims of the four component nations (nationalism).

The analytical emphasis of the course focused on reconstructing the narratives of unionism and nationalism in original historical and contemporary documents as they appear around the formation of the United Kingdom, in the home rule debates of the 1880s, 1970s and 1990s as well as in the present post-devolution scenario.

Field trips

Study trip to Dublin. April 2016

In the spring of 2016 Sara Dybris McQuaid brought a small group of MA students who were studying the politics of memory and commemoration in Ireland. They went to observe the commemorations of the centennial of the 1916 Easter Rising from seemingly 'objective' government sponsored exhibitions, heavily politicised commemorations to the growing commercialization of the Rising and its' leaders. The students interviewed several people with a key role in the commemorations. 

Meeting the director of Kilmainhaim Gaol.
The proclamation printed on a souvenir candle at the GPO.
The 'Revolution 1916' exhibition at the Ambassador theatre. Commonly referred to as 'the Sinn Féin exhibition'.
The students at the 'Remembrance Wall' at Glasnevin Cemetary.

Study trip to Belfast, 2013

In September 2013 Sara Dybris McQuaid brought a group of BA students on a field trip to Belfast and Dublin. As part of a wider research project on collective memory and protracted conflict, the group studied the politicisation of space, commemorative parades, commemorative violence, and regulation of public order in North Belfast, which is a particularly fractious interface. As part of the field work, students did archival research, went to workshops and interviewed the Orange Order and met representatives at the permanent protest in Twadell avenue.