Dr Margaret Brehony

School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures

School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures

“Cuban-Irish Diasporas: Gender, Race, and Ethnic Whitening Strategies: A Digital Humanities Initiative”

This research examines inter-related processes of Irish migration and white colonization strategies at a time of expanding slavery in nineteenth century Cuba. The approach is multi-disciplinary crossing history, social sciences, and digital humanities (DH) and the project will produce the first open-access web archive of Irish settlement in the Hispanic Caribbean. Funded by the Irish Research Council, this project is mentored by mentored by Professor Nuala Finnegan at the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies. Based for the first year at the Palacio Segundo Cabo, a cultural center in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Havana, CAROLINE Fellow, Dr. Margaret Brehony will conduct research in the Cuban archives and curate a museum exhibition on Irish migration to Cuba. In the return phase, she will join the research community in University College Cork.

To explore this unfamiliar and compelling history of Irish immigrants in Cuba c. 1818-1850, the project will study colonial records of the Council for White Population and other unexamined sources in the Cuban archives. By capturing the complexities of this Irish migration experience the study will throw new light on colonial politics of gender and race in inter-ethnic relationships between Cuba’s majority African diaspora and European settlers. Records of kinship, labour relations, and property will be examined to establish how Irish women and men participated in this putative “whitening” strategy in a region of frontier slavery in the Spanish colony. As the first examination of gender, race and Irish ethnicity in Cuba, the project will reproduce rare archival sources amassed during the research in an innovative open-access digital archive of cultural heritage, entitled ‘Mapping the Cuban-Irish’. This historic approach to whiteness, class and gender has broader relevance to current migration and integration issues and will contribute to deepening our understanding of colonial legacies of gender and race in contemporary European discourse and emerging challenges of social inclusion and cultural identity in global migration.


A psychology graduate from NUIG, Dr Margaret Brehony has an MA in Culture and Colonialism and a PhD in Irish Studies from NUIG. She also has an MA in Digital Arts and Humanities from UCC. Her extensive professional experience in the area of migration includes human rights advocacy and policy development with the Irish Refugee Council. She also worked with Guatemalan refugees in Mexico. Dr. Brehony has published research on immigration and integration needs in County Mayo and an advocacy report based on peer research with the Brazilian community in Gort, Co Galway. In 2016, she curated an international touring exhibition The Irish in Latin America, commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The exhibition was launched in 2017 by President Higgins at UCC and during the first Irish State visit to Cuba at the Palacio Segundo Cabo in Havana. Dr. Brehony has delivered seminars and papers associated with the exhibition in Ireland, Cuba, Chile, Mexico and Spain. She is president of the Society for Irish Latin American Studies (SILAS) since 2014. SILAS was affiliated with the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, UCC in 2016. Dr. Brehony co-edits the Irish Migration Studies in Latin America journal. Her research on Irish migration to Cuba in the early nineteenth century is published in Irish Studies journal, Eire-Ireland and in a recent collection of essays on Cuban Studies (Rethinking Past and Present in Cuba: Essays in memory of Alistair Hennessy, edited by Antoni Kapcia, 2018).

College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences

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