Irish religious diasporas 17th-21st century
"Irish Religious Diasporas from the 17th to the 21st century"
An international GIS EIRE conference jointly organized by the University of Caen Normandy (ERIBIA), the University of Lille (CECILLE) and IT Tallaght (AFIS)
May 14-15, 2020
“I thought that God was Irish”, said Cardinal Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Tagle at a conference in London in 2017 during which he referred to his childhood growing up in the Philippines. Since British imperial expansion, Catholic presence has often rhymed with Irish names. Indeed, the “Irish missionary movement”, as it came to be known, emerged after Catholic Emancipation and the organization of the Irish Church, followed British subjects serving the Crown all over the world and also tended to the pastoral needs of Irish famine emigrants. In God’s Entrepreneurs. How Irish Missionaries Tried to Change the World, Irish journalist Joe Humphreys described perceptions of missionaries as ranging from “well-meaning and antiquated people” to “proselytes from another age.” Returned Irish missionaries however tell stories of humble lifestyle among the local populations. The Irish press has recently interviewed a number retired Irish missionaries who express a sense of mitigated success and understated discouragement. With far looser connections to the colonial enterprise than their French or English counterparts, have they been properly acknowledged?
In the prevailing discourse about the Catholic Church in Ireland however, missionary activity enjoys a certain capital of sympathy, being regarded as one of the main areas of vitality in ecclesial life at a time of institutional crisis – an area untainted by the scandals that beset the institution at home. It is time to shine a critical light on that assumption in order to come to a more precise and informed appreciation of Irish missionary activity. As a scholarly contribution to the field of Irish missiology and church history, this conference seeks to build on the research which has been carried out in the history department of University College Cork since the 1970s. It also intends to contribute to scholarship about Irish Protestant missions, as well as about the emigration and settlement of non-missionary Irish religious groups, such as Irish Jews.
The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs has invested funding in France to support research on the Irish diaspora in France and by extension on the European continent. Since the establishment of the Irish College in Paris, and since the 19th century with the arrival of French orders in Ireland, the Irish Catholic Church has looked to France with a mixture of fascination and repulsion (playing out especially between French and Irish missionaries stationed in neighbouring missions). Literary representations and intellectual critiques of Catholicism in France have been a source of inspiration and even of prophetic insight for Irish Catholicism.
Can we talk about Irish religious diasporas? The word “diaspora”, historically reserved to the Jews dispersed from Israel, and to populations subjected to forced resettlement after enduring expulsion, slavery, racism, war, has seen its meaning extended to refer to all populations “settled far from their ancestral homelands.” In order to structure the study of this newly opened research area, the Irish Studies community in France (the SOFEIR) set up a Groupement d’Intérêt Scientifique (GIS) which it called GIS EIRE. One of the research areas explored by GIS EIRE is the “Irish religious diaspora.” GIS EIRE facilitates cooperation between universities in a particular research area. Accordingly, IT Tallaght (Ireland) and the University of Lille (France) jointly organized the conference of the Association of Franco-Irish Studies in May 2019, and the theme of the Irish religious diaspora brought together some scholars. A second chapter of this research project is the 2020 GIS EIRE conference held at the university of Caen Normandy and which will be specifically dedicated to the theme of the Irish religious diaspora. We intend to outline and explore this area for the first time with the transdisciplinary insights of international scholars from Irish Studies, History, Literature, Diasporic Studies, Ecclesial History and Missiology.
We invite proposals for 20-minute papers on topics which might include but are not limited to:
- The circulation of Irish religious in France and from there to other countries
- The relationship between the Irish Colleges on the continent, Irish Church life and the Vatican
- Literary representations of Catholic identity in countries of Irish diasporic presence
- Spiritual and liturgical inculturation
- Comparison between diasporic and mainland ecclesial/institutional experiences
- Comparison between endeavours or legacies of Irish Catholic and Protestant missionaries
- Involvement of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish Irish communities and individuals in education, healthcare and social justice
- Shift in goals of Irish missions across the world from evangelization to social justice
- Scholarship on well-known or lesser-known Irish missions (the Maynooth Mission to China eg)
Please send 250-word abstracts and 100-word presenter bios to Eamon Maher (firstname.lastname@example.org), Catherine Maignant (email@example.com), and Alexandra Slaby (firstname.lastname@example.org) before November 30th, 2019.