Ciaran O’Neill: TCD SPECTRESS Fellow in Sao Paulo


SPeCTReSS Fellowship Report #1
Ciaran O’Neill, Universidade São Paulo, July-September 2014

I feel some pressure writing this, as I am the first of many Spectress fellows to report back on my time abroad and I have much to cram into this short space. To try and remedy this I am going to include lots of pictures.  At USP I was mentored by the wonderful Prof. Laura Izarra, Prof Munira Mutran and their team of postgraduate researchers at USP. The university lived up to a radical past during my time there this summer. First up is an image of that revolutionary past, with the red paint poured all over the iconic clock at the centre of the University reminding us of student demonstrations in previous decades (alongside of a more soothing shot of a pre-lecture coffee!). All interesting for students of trauma:


It seems pertinent to mention that my formal interactions with USP were limited by the fact that much of the humanities faculty of the university was on strike for the period of the fellowship, with library access limited to one of the specialist libraries (Brasiliana) for the duration of my time there. Nevertheless we managed to arrange two lectures at USP, thanks to the ingenuity and wide networks of my host – Prof. Laura Izarra. As a scholar who is deeply interested in interdisciplinary approaches to history, and one who has written quite a bit about literature as well as history, it was particularly appropriate that I was based at FFLCH in USP, which thankfully continued to have an accessible building while I was based at USP. Perhaps a look at the history department building will give colleagues some idea of how when Brazilian universities go on strike, they mean it:

Slide1History Dept, USP, 10 July 2014

Despite this traumatic turn of events, we managed to get through plenty of work. My first lecture at USP built on work I am undertaking with my graduate student, Mai Yatani, on feminist novels of the 1890s, mostly written by cosmopolitan ex-pat Irish women living in London who were writing a sort of alternative national identity or national script. This paper was delivered on 18 August 2014. My second lecture at USP looked directly at the SPeCTReSS project and how it was influencing the book I am writing. I did this at the tail end of the fellowship, on the 15 September. I called it ‘Power, Trauma, and modern Ireland’, allowing the first third of the hour to become a sort of clarion call for wider engagement with SPeCTReSS across other faculties. This paper was based on the core research I am currently working on. It will be a history of modern Ireland, provisionally entitled Power, Trauma, and Authority in Modern Ireland, which uses the collective trauma of the Irish famine (1845-52) as an anchor in order to rewrite the history of power relations in Ireland in the nineteenth century. This will largely be based on a specialist module I teach at Trinity, drawing heavily on power theory to divide an essentially interpretive synthesis. The centerpiece of the argument will rest on how Ireland’s governing systems responded to and adapted to the post-famine environment, and how cultural trauma affected them and the people they controlled.

In between these two lectures I delivered a keynote lecture at Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa, Rio De Janeiro, where the ABEI (Associação Brasileira de Estudos Irlandeses) hosted the 9th Symposium of irish Studies in South America, where I had the chance to disseminate my research to a wide variety of people working on Irish Studies in Argentina and Brazil. This was a wonderful event, generously hosted by the Irish embassy in Brasilia, along with USP and Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro. We also had the wonderful Prof. Nicholas Grene (School of English, TCD) in attendance, along with TCD alumnus and author Declan Hughes, some of whom you can see in this photograph, featuring my (quite blurred) mentor, Prof. Laura Izarra:

Slide3Pre Irish Studies Conference, Rio De Janeiro, 24 August 2014

But what about Sao Paulo, and what about Brazil? Well, I arrived in Sao Paulo exactly halfway through the 2014 World Cup, and although I couldn’t get to any of the games, it was an amazing experience to be in the city while it was played. I counted this as a critical and necessary engagement with Brazilian culture and people… This photo was taken at my neighbourhood bar during that game against Germany:

Slide4Brazil 1 – 7 Germany, Rua Itu, SP, 8 July 2014

Most of them saw the funny side, I guess.
I also had a chance to travel around a bit, and to meet lots of different types of Brazilians from lots of different walks of life.

The only real trauma was that I had to leave. Can I go back now?

Ciaran O’Neill, December 2014.

To read Ciaran O’Neill’s scientific report, see:

About Jennifer Edmond

Dr Jennifer Edmond, is the Director of Strategic Projects in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Trinity College Dublin. Trained as a scholar of German literature, Jennifer is mostly engaged professionally with the investigation of knowledge exchange and collaboration in Humanities research and in particular the impact of technology on these processes.
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