University College Dublin | An Coláiste Ollscoile, Baile Átha Cliath

UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland | Director: Professor Liam Kennedy

Global Irish Civic Forum
June 2015

Prospective Students

    President Clinton addresses the Institute Sept 2010

Ireland and African-America

9-11 March 2012
Clinton Institute for American Studies
University College Dublin, Ireland




On the 9 – 10 March 2012, The Clinton Institute for American Studies held a two day international conference entitled Ireland and African-America.  Unfortunately, the main keynote speaker Ishmael Reed had to withdraw from the conference on the 6 March due to the passing of his mother.  Reed passed along his sincere regrets and though he was much missed he was very much there in spirit.  However, other auspicious plenaries included Professor Luke Gibbons, Professor Eric Lott and Professor Diane Negra.  The conference drew together a community of international scholars and academics whose research interests speak towards the crossover between Ireland and African-America.

Friday afternoon kicked off with parallel sessions entitled ‘Identity and Belonging’ and ‘The Bod[ies] Politic’ respectively.  Papers included productive discussions on representations of Irish and Africa-American identity on film, stage and through the motif of music in literature, and on Isaac Nelson and Slavery, The African Blood Brotherhood and the Easter Rebellion and on Crosscurrents of the Green and Black Atlantics in New York City in 1920.  Friday afternoon was brought to a close with a rousing lecture by Professor Luke Gibbons on Slavish Representations in the work of controversial Cork artist James Barry.  Gibbons’ sweeping lecture drew together Barry’s largely eighteenth century body of work with twentieth century political theories regarding the power of the state and the rights of the citizen.

Saturday morning sessions began with panels on Irish national and ethnic attitudes on race and further papers on the Green and Black Atlantic (with a specific focus on black abolitionist Fredrick Douglass).  The latter panel was very kindly rounded out at the last minute by Ann Coughlan, a PhD student in University College Cork after the withdrawal of two planned speakers.  Following a catered lunch, Professor Diane Negra gave the conference’s second plenary on The Tragicomic Irish-America Personae of Denis Leary and Kathy Griffin which examined the manner in which Leary and Griffin access African-American tropes in order to communicate an analogous working class Irish identity which might otherwise be at odds with their celebrity status.

Afternoon sessions centred on the experience of being Irish in African America; including the role of religion, the Chicago race riots and the Moynihan Report.  The Black/Irish parallel session took on a more auto-ethnographical tone with personal discussions on the experience of being (and crossover between) both Irish and African-American identities and an investigation into the racial sonic instability of ‘the father of country’, Jimmy Rodgers.

Following a short coffee break, late afternoon panels continued with sessions on Drama and Minstrelsy which looked at; Blackface and Irish Modernism; Irish and African-American oppression in the plays of Dion Boucicault and Punch’s ambivalent response to American Minstrels.   ‘An [Un]common Ancestry?’ included papers on Obama’s visit to Ireland, Roddy Doyle’s short story Home to Harlem and representations of blackness and the fractured self in Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane.

The conference was brought to a close with Eric Lott’s plenary “‘Before James Brown There was Jesus’: Pop Messianism, Bono, Bruce and the Geopolitical Unconscious” which examined the manner in which Bono and Bruce Springsteen adopt a rock music ‘Messiah complex’ (in a manner first affected by James Brown) and how this informs, (and, largely, inevitably works against), their geopolitical objectives.

Prof. Eric Lott "'Before James Brown There was Jesus': Pop Messianism, Bono & Bruce and the Geopolitical Unconscious" from UCD Clinton on Vimeo.

All of the panels generated provocative discussion which spilled into panel breaks and informed the reception of subsequent papers


Friday, 9 March

4.30-5.00                     Registration

4.50-5.00                     Short Welcome Address

5.00-6.30                     Panels A and B

Panel A: Identity and Belonging Chair: Erich Nunn

Maureen O’Connor (University College Cork):

“Black Dandies and Irish White Negroes on the American Stage”’

Louise Walsh (Clinton Institute, University College Dublin)

“Writing Silence and Sound: Irish Revival and African-American Renaissance”    

Zélie Asava (University College, Dublin):

“Questions of Belonging: Positioning Irish-African-American Identities in Irish Film and American TV.”


Panel B: The Bod[ies] Politic - Chair: Liam Kennedy

Daniel Ritchie (Queen’s University Belfast):

“Isaac Nelson, slavery, and Ulster-American Revivalism.” 

James Miller (George Washington University):

“The New Negro: C.V. Briggs, The African Blood Brotherhood, and the Easter Rebellion.”

Bruce Nelson (Dartmouth College):

“‘We [must] meet the enemy not alone in Ireland but all over the globe’: Crosscurrents of the Green and Black Atlantics:  New York City, 1920.”    

6.30-7.30       Luke Gibbons -“‘Slavish Representations’: Ireland, America and the Art of Abolition”


7.30 - 8.30   Reception


Saturday, 10 March                                                                                                                                     

10:30-12:00                 Panels C and D

 Panel C: Shades of Whiteness: Irish National and Ethnic Attitudes on Race - Chair, Erich Nunn                            

David T. Gleeson (Northumbria University):

“Friends of Liberty? Irish Opinion on American Emancipation” 

Matthew O’Brien:

“Irish America and Race in the 1970s The War Within.”

Christopher Shannon (Christendom College):

“Paddy and Tambo Go to Town Race and the Postwar Irish-American Literary Imagination.” 


Panel D: The Green and Black Atlantic          Chair: Louise Walsh                                                         

Lee M. Jenkins (University College Cork): 

“The People’s Republic: Cork and the Green and Black Atlantic.” 

Bill E. Lawson (University of Memphis):

“Fredrick Douglass, Liberalism and the Development of Self in Ireland.” 


12:00-1:00         Lunch

1.00-2.00         Diane Negra – “The Tragicomic Irish-American Personae of Denis Leary and Kathy Griffin.”


2:00 – 3:30                  Panels E and F


Panel E: To be Irish in African America Chair: Martin Russell

Sandra L. Barnes (Vanderbilt University):

Church Cultural Components against Conflict: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of Religion for Irish Immigrants and African Americans in the 1930s and 1940s.”

Cassie Miller (Carnegie Mellon University):

“Saving the Neighborhood ‘for those who built it’: Irish and African American Confrontations on Chicago’s South Side, 1900-1940.”

Gerald David Naughton (Effat University):

“‘From the Wild Irish Slums’: What the Moynihan Report Said about Irish America.”


Panel F: Black/Irish, Chair: Geoff O'Connor

Bambi Haggins (Arizona State University):

“Black Irish Like Me: On Becoming and Being A Celtic Soul Sister.”

Erich Nunn (Auburn University):

“Sounding White: Imagined Irishness and the Anxiety of Ancestry.”

Paula Pratt (Coppin State University):

“From Frederick Douglass to The Commitments:Exploring and Celebrating Irish-African Connections at a Historically Black University.”


3.30-4.00                     Tea & Coffee

4.00-5.30                     Panels G and H


Panel G: Drama and Minstrelsy, Chair: Ron Callan

John Brannigan (University College Dublin):

“‘Our Own Faces?’: Blackface Minstrelsy and Irish Modernism”

Catherine Eagan (Las Positas College):

“‘A Familiar Condescension’: Irish and African-American Oppression in the Plays of Dion Boucicault”

Timothy Keane (University College Galway):

“The Irish and Blackface: Punch’s Ambivalent Response to American Minstrels.”


Panel H: An [Un]common Ancestry?, Chair: Liam Kennedy

David Kilroy (Nova Southeastern University):

“In the Footsteps of JFK: Barack Obama’s Presidential Visit to Ireland.”

Chanté Mouton Kinyon (University College Galway)

“Colonial Me: Blackness and the Fractured Self in Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane.”

Maureen T. Reddy (Rhode Island College):

“Going ‘Home’ Again: The Arrival of the Other.”


5.30 - 56.30   Eric Lott - “‘Before James Brown There was Jesus’: Pop Messianism, Bono & Bruce and the Geopolitical Unconscious”


8pm - In association with Dublinintellectual we will move into the city centre

Venue:- The Ormond Bar (downstairs), Ormond Quay, for an informal post-conference discussion.  There will be serveral brief commentaries, including

Martin Russell           "Civil Rights Northern Irelnd and US"

Eric Lott                      “U2 and African American Music”

Joe Breen                   “Rory Gallagher and the Irish Blues Appreciation Society”


This venue serves food and drink


Registration Information

* Registration fee €50  (€25 for students)

Registration fee includes a conference pack and admission to all conference seminars, plenary sessions, tea/coffee and lunch. To register please email the following details to

* Name

* Institute/Affiliation

* Full postal address

* Email

* Number of places

* Fee

Payment can be made in euro cheque in advance/  or by cash at the start of the event - please confirm which at time of registration


Attendees are responsible for booking and paying for your own accommodation

* Accommodation near UCD

How to get to University College Dublin

The conference will open in the UCD Clinton Institute,

Delegates are responsible for booking their own travel and accommodation.

How to get to UCD