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Ethnographic & Biographical Methods Seminar, 2 September 2020

Please click on the titles in the table below to access the recorded presentations. 


Title: Mapping Irish Socialist Feminism through Feminist Biography [Duration: 30 mins]

Dr Elizabeth Kyte, Women's Studies, UCC 


This paper will explore the use of biographical sources to foreground the activist experiences of Irish socialist feminists and map the complex ways they were connected to radical movements, organisations and individuals.  Roy Foster in Vivid Faces has suggested that unravelling moments of ‘irreversible change’, depends upon revealing ‘the complexity of revolutionary commitments among individuals’ (Foster, 2014: xxii).  Drawing on Liz Stanley’s feminist biographical technique, which she pioneered in her works on Olive Shreiner (1986b) and Emily Wilding Davidson’s (1988) feminist friendship networks, the paper will discuss how feminist biography can be utilised to capture radical interconnections in Ireland.  As Sheila Rowbotham has described in her biography of a contemporary of Irish socialist feminists, Edward Carpenter: This time around I have sought to bring out the remarkable range of interconnections evident in his thinking, through his life, through his networks, his mix of causes, his interests and his thinking (Rowbotham, 2008: 4). Like Carpenter and his networks of radicals, Irish socialist feminists refused to be confined by any single movement or ideology.  Rather, these connections between the different aspects of radical politics can be illuminated through biography; through the experiences of events, thinking, relationships and actions which reconstruct the history of a life. 

Title: The Cork Folklore Project: What's the story with talk? [Duration: 25 mins]

Dr Clíona O’Carroll, Cork Folklore Project and Béaloideas/Folklore and Ethnology, UCC


I will consider some questions regarding recorded ‘talk’, in terms of research and of the generation of community cultural heritage resources. Working with the Cork Folklore Project folklore/oral history archive, I feel a need to assert, and to create space for, the specificity of form and richness of the medium of recorded speech. This applies in academic contexts and in the public sphere, where a number of forces of expectation are brought to bear on ‘the folklore/oral history interview’ that mask or mis-assess the potential of the form in interrogating and celebrating the construction of meaning in everyday life. There is a need to fill a gap with fresh interrogation of the mechanisms and experience of listening to the conversational human voice in a mediated context (points of interest include an assumed association of exposure to human testimony and empathy, and the issue of digital abundance). It is also time to play. Up to now, we have engaged in collective listening, digital story mapping, film and broadcast/audio pieces as part of our dissemination-collection cycle. It may be time to overtly resist or subvert expectations, and develop or collaborate on more ‘non-standard’ creative interventions in order to assert the intriguing, surprising, rich, messy, valuable, human, and relationally-embedded nature of this particular iteration of ‘talk’.

Title: Irish homes: post-war emigration to North London [Duration: 35 mins]

Siobhán Browne, Department of Folklore and Ethnology, UCC


This paper is based on a study of a particular ethnographic context: the post-war homes of Irish who were impacted by emigration to North London. The homes from where people came, as well as the homes they created in London are examined. Avtar Brah’s diaspora space provides a conceptual space in which these homes and the occupants lives are examined. Thirty-five people were interviewed during the course of this study generating almost sixty hours of audio. Most of the research is made up of recorded interviews that took place in peoples’ homes.  The complexity and nuance of the research question meant the research had to be approached from a myriad of angles. I have used research methods from history and folklore in addition to research methods from sociology, anthropology, literature and art history. I have used a number of creative methods that have paid attention to the senses and their role in memory. I carried out many interviews that were object-based as a means to gaining a portal to memories that were dormant or would otherwise remain buried in a conventional interview setting. I used walking or mobile interview methods which opened up many layers of meaning.  Throughout the project, I have reflected on my own positionality as a researcher and the impact that has on the research from beginning to end.

Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century (ISS21)

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