Archive for July, 2010

Thank God it’s them instead of you: Live Aid and Ireland

13 July 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Think of Africa in the mid-1980s and a distinct set of images comes to mind. Ethiopia. Sudan. Famine. Michael Buerk on the BBC lifting the media veil on Korem refugee camp, “the closest thing to hell on earth”. Band Aid. “Feed the world”. Live Aid. Bob Geldof imploring the watching public to “give us your money NOW”.

In Ireland Live Aid evokes memories of a unique public display of energy and emotion. Pride that on 13 July 1985 one of Ireland’s own was the driving force behind the first global media fund-raising extravaganza of its kind. Pride in the £7.5 million pledged from a country crippled by high taxation, unemployment and emigration – the highest per capita donation in the world. Pride in U2’s performance, as Bono’s famous off-stage foray catapulted the band into even greater realms of stardom. And, above all, pride in the role played by Irish NGOs like Concern, Goal, Trócaire, Self Help, Gorta, the Irish Red Cross, Christian Aid, Oxfam, even the IFA, in assisting the millions affected by famine in Ethiopia and Sudan. Read More

Top five: Fashion History

9 July 2010

Contributed by Niamh Cullen

‘Nothing happened, except that we all dressed up’. So John Lennon ironically dismissed the social and cultural revolution that was 1960s London, in a 1970 interview for Rolling Stone magazine. If the ‘swinging sixties’ in London can be encapsulated by the image of the miniskirt, it doesn’t mean that the cultural revolution that took place during than decade was a superficial one, but that clothes came, in a very real way, to embody the changes that were taking place in identity, gender relations, youth culture, consumer culture and much more. Until recent years, fashion or dress history was mostly seen as a branch of art history, with the focus being primarily on the aesthetic qualities of clothing – usually the sumptuous dress of royalty and the upper classes. It is only in the last couple of decades that it has begun to be seen as an integral part of social and cultural history, with studies examining what ordinary people wore, and what their clothes said about their lives and the society they lived in, rather than just looking at courtly dress, or the fashion industry. Here are Niamh’s top five books for Fashion history:
1 . Gilles Lipovetsky, The Empire of Fashion: Dressing Modern Democracy

A French philosophy professor, Lipovetsky is regarded in some ways as the heir to Roland Barthes. Both are postmodernists and have written about fashion, but the similarities stop there. Lipovetsky has inherited none of Barthes’ disdain for the so-called superficiality of the fashion industry. Instead, he recognises the value of fashion as a way of expressing individual identity in modern, democratic society and, with this premise in mind, traces the development of the fashion industry in France from the eighteenth to twentieth century. Read more

History for the dogs

8 July 2010

By Juliana Adelman

At the risk of boring those of you who are not already on your holidays, I thought I would offer a few thoughts on changing ideas of historical actors.  To get straight to the point: are dogs the new working classes?  The idea of history from below reaching beyond the human species is not especially radical in ‘animal studies’ circles.  Nevertheless, I am guessing that most historians would be reluctant to embrace the idea that a nonhuman animal be treated as a historical actor with agency.  I would tend to agree,  even as a person who studies the history of animals and who rather likes dogs.

There are some compelling reasons to consider animals as actors and as having some kind of agency.  For starters we are animals and we don’t really quite understand what it is about us that is so different from other animals.  Genetically, it amounts to very little.  So far scientists have found a very small number of uniquely human genes (discovered by Aoife McLysaght’s laboratory in TCD).  In terms of intelligence, we are aware that other animals are highly intelligent and have sophisticated means of communication.  As I noted in a different post, dolphins have recently been dubbed ‘nonhuman persons’ because of their intellectual capacity (as defined by humans).  There is, however, the minor matter of not leaving written records. Read more

Pue’s Recommendations for July

5 July 2010

Juliana Adelman: As it is the 4th of July while I’m writing this I figured I could give my home country and town a bit of a plug.  Concord (Massachussetts) is associated with the start, rather than the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.  (See this somewhat bizarrely relaxed reenactment of the first battle.  What’s with the cows?).  If you happen to be heading to Boston over the summer then Concord is a worthwhile day trip.  It is very scenic in ways that teenagers do not appreciate.  Among the sights are: Thoreau’s cabin in Walden Woods, the Orchard House (former home of Louisa May Alcott), the Old North Bridge and Minuteman National Park and the home of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  In Boston you can follow the Freedom Trail past most of the city’s historic buildings including Paul Revere’s house.  If you fancy a bit of armchair travel to one of New York City’s best cultural attractions, you can now have an audio tour of some of MOMA’s most significant art works online.  They are each very short and relatively free of jargon.  In continuing with the American theme I am reading Katherine C. Grier’s excellent Pets in America which has explained, among other things, the 19th C connotations of the phrase ‘dog days of summer’ (when there was a high rabies risk and stray dogs were hunted down and killed).  Finally, the 4th of July brings on an unseemly urge to listen to classic rock: Born in the USA and American Girl are ones I can willingly admit to.

Lisa-Marie Griffith: Festival season is upon us (see Kevin’s recommendations below) and while Festivals are a great way of jamming in a years worth of gig going, book buying and film watching, increasingly I find it difficult to keep up with them all. At the Dublin Writer’s festival last month I was introduced to the Life Is A Festival! blog. Gisela volunteers for each festival, attends as many of the events as possible and then reviews and discusses the event. This is an excellent way of catching up on festivals you haven’t manage to get to. If you are curious about why people volunteer their weekends for these events Gisela is very encouraging about what you can get out of sacrificing your time. The Chester Beatty Library‘s summer exhibition lives up to their fantastic reputation and ‘Muraqqa; Imperial Mughal Albums from the Chester Beatty Library’ is also well worth a look.

Tina Morin: Last weekend’s Irish Times review of Greg Baxter’s memoir, A Preparation for Death, reminded me to pick it up and start reading. Greg spoke about his experiences with Some Blind Alleys at our Blogging the Humanities symposium last month, when he was in the midst of promoting his book. He wouldn’t say much about it to us then, but I was definitely intrigued and promise to report back when I’ve finished reading. And, in keeping with Baxter’s death-related title, I’m hoping to attend some of the screenings of the Queen’s Film Theatre‘s upcoming film series: Natural Born Killers – Serial Killers on the Big Screen. Running from 16-22 July and showcasing undeniable classics such as Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs, it sounds like great, gorey fun!

Kevin O’Sullivan: I’m off on my holidays around Ireland for a week this month, so I’ve been looking through the handy Discover Ireland calendar that hangs on the fridge to find out what’s on in July. Turns out there’s loads: the Galway Film Fleadh, the Galway Arts Festival, the Clonmel Junction Festival (intriguingly described as a ‘guaranteed assault on the senses’), the Earagail Arts Festival in Donegal and the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay. And it seems like only yesterday that I took a mental note from one of those ‘what’s on in 2010’ lists that an exhibition of John Lavery’s works was to arrive in Dublin this summer: Sir John Lavery: Passion and Politics opens at the Hugh Lane on 15 July. To quote a (Sandy Denny) phrase, who knows where the time goes?

At What Price Independence?

4 July 2010

By Christina Morin

I’ve been trawling the net recently in the hopes of finding a local, Belfast supplier of authentic graham crackers so that I can celebrate the 4th with that quintessential Independence Day dessert – s’mores (pictured left). I haven’t had much luck, but I have turned up some interesting tidbits, including the fact that July plays host to a bevy of independence days. Canada Day, for instance, is on the 1st of July. Argentina celebrates the anniversary of its Declaration of Independence on 9 July, and, famously, France marks the fall of the Bastille on the 14th. Bahamians commemorate the anniversary of full self-rule on 10  July, and Liberia remembers the day on which freed American slaves declared the country’s independence in 1847 on 26 July. The list goes on and on. As I discovered all this, it struck me that other ex-pats from all over the world could be searching for imported delicacies to celebrate their respective independence days in the appropriate gastronomic fashion – what a unifying thought! A host of different nationalities brought together by the internet, the fact that our national independence days share the same month, and our determination to have a little bit of home abroad on such an important occasion no matter what the price. Read more

Contesting the Past: The Saville Report on Bloody Sunday

2 July 2010

Contributed by Shaun McDaid

The publication on 15 June 2010 of Lord Saville’s Report into the events of Bloody Sunday was one of the most significant events in the recent history of Northern Ireland. For many, Saville’s unequivocal exoneration of those civilians shot by members of 1 Para on 30 January 1972 came as no surprise – not least the families of the victims. The Saville Inquiry exorcised the ghosts of the Widgery report of 1972, the first investigation into the deaths. Widgery’s report suggested that some of those who had been shot had come into contact with or had fired weapons. The forensic evidence on which this conclusion was based has subsequently been discredited; it was rejected by Lord Saville. After almost forty years, the state officially recognised the innocence of those who were shot by the Paras that afternoon. The Prime Minister offered an earnest apology on behalf of the government. However, despite the lack of ambiguity of Saville’s main findings, they were hotly debated in Northern Ireland, with opinion often dividing along sectarian lines.

The differing emphases placed on the report by nationalist and unionist politicians are illustrative of the challenges facing analysts of Ulster politics. Nationalists regard the report as a vindication of the innocent civilians who lost their lives, while many unionists focus on the lack of closure for families who lost loved ones to paramilitary violence. Unionists are also concerned about the movements of the current Deputy-First Minister on Bloody Sunday itself. In Northern Ireland, even seemingly incontrovertible facts can be interpreted in different ways. Politicians on both sides will, it seems, attempt to use the details of the report against each other for political gain. Read more