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(19-06-2016) BodyStories Conference

This conference considers how the expressive, experiential terrain of the body meets, interrogates and re-calibrates our understanding of on-going questions of agency, action, and subjectivity in order to attend to the various ways in which bodies tell their own stories  at the intersections of arts, activism and scholarship.

Abstracts & Presenters

Siobhán Clancy - Reading Between the Lines

Reading Between the Lines is a participatory reading event hosted by artist Siobhán Clancy that highlights the ongoing censorship of books in Ireland dealing with the subject of abortion.

In the wake of a number of referenda following the X Case, acts were passed in Ireland regarding rights to travel for abortion services and to access information about them. The Regulation of Information (Services Outside the State for the Termination of Pregnancies) Act, 1995 modified earlier censorship acts to allow publications with information about “services provided outside the State for the termination of pregnancies”. The ongoing prohibition of sale of 8 books is symptomatic of a culture of silence that still surrounds abortion in Ireland despite the fact that it is a ‘body story’ shared by over 150,000 people since 1980.

By accepting this invitation to read texts aloud, participants will perform an embodied gesture of dissent in a collective effort to de-stigmatise a common reproductive healthcare experience. Texts will be provided.

Bio: Siobhán Clancy’s practice explores models of socialization that impact on individual wellbeing in contexts of health, disability, education and young people.  Working in collaboration mainly with youth, community and wom(y)n’s groups, her work is usually presented live as a performative event or situation. Siobhán also co-produces work with home|work, a feminist art collective that confronts censorship and self-censorship through art, action, performance, conversation and camaraderie. home|work emerged from a research and development phase undertaken by Siobhán with activist members of the Abortion Rights Campaign. It is funded under The Arts Council Artist in the Community Scheme Phase I Award managed by Create (The National Development Agency for Collaborative Arts)

Faizan Fiaz - Poshida

Poshida is a groundbreaking independent documentary following LGBT individuals in Pakistan, exploring their history, culture and challenges.

Bio: Faizan Fiazidentifies as non binary, and is a journalist and filmmaker who has worked extensively in Pakistan for news organisations such as the Associated Press, CCTV News, BBC, Channel 4 News, Radio France International, Daily Telegraph, NPR, Vice News and others. This is their first film.  

Prof. Nuala Finnegan - Staging feminicidio: Bodily horror in stage adaptations of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666

Staging feminicidio: Bodily horror in stage adaptations of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666

Roberto Bolaño remains a mythical if rather controversial figure in the field of Hispanic literature. His posthumously published 2666  featuring the graphic “The Part About the Crimes” in which he explores the cases of hundreds of women killed in the U.S.-Mexico border town of Ciudad Juárez was transposed to stage by Alex Rigola, former director of the famous Teatre Lliure in Barcelona. The description of more than 100 crimes in the original novel is translated to the stage via a masterclass in compression in the form of one body –Rosita Mendez – played by actor, Alba Pujol and a scene during which the body ‘wakes up’ and re-enacts her rape, torture and death conveyed through a series of noises, shouts, moans and a few coherent words. In this paper I would like to ask what are we to make of the screaming writhing body of Rosa Mendez and consider her excessive presence through a number of theoretical frameworks informed by Georges Batailles, Irigaray’s ideas of parler femme among others. If the screams of Rosa Mendez raise problematic questions in relation to the ethics of staging gender violence as spectacle as well as the boundaries between art and activism, they also register the conditions of accelerated globalization and its consequences for the bodies of impoverished women who inhabit the peripheries or border zones of this new global world order. Following this, perhaps it is possible to see how the register of the voice and the display of this body in extremity converts the play into an act of dynamism, expressed through a body that is transformed into a live testimony of its own death. This dynamism stands in direct contrast to the dead ‘things’ that populate the novel’s exploration of the topic and unsettle in other ways key motifs that have characterized the feminicide debate in the region since it began including sometimes stultifying binary oppositions that lock the narrative into one about globalization and late capitalism filtered through the time-worn Agamben script of exceptionality about the border zone and its inhabitants.

Bio:  I graduated from NUI Galway with a BA in Irish and Spanish and then undertook an MA by Research at University College Dublin with a thesis on the surrealist prose poetry of acclaimed Spanish poet, Vicente Aleixandre. In 1996 I was awarded a PhD from the University of Glasgow on the notion of the monstrous feminine in the work of Mexican writer, Rosario Castellanos. This was later revised for publication as The Monstrous Feminine in the Writing of Rosario Castellanos (2001).

I was appointed as lecturer in Hispanic Studies in UCC in 1999 with responsibility for the direction of the newly established Centre for Mexican Studies. My previous academic appointments included two years as Head of Spanish at the University of Limerick and four years as lecturer in Spanish and Latin American Studies at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. I was Head of the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies from 2008-2013 and am currently Head of the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

As Professor of Spanish since 2008, my research is internationally recognized through my publications, my research supervision, project management experience, peer-esteem indicators, public engagement and as director of a successful research centre, Ireland’s only Centre for Mexican Studies. In my capacity as researcher, I have been an invited keynote speaker at a range of national and international conferences, seminars and workshops. I have served as External Examiner on numerous PhD boards and have been an expert reviewer for numerous international journals. I have supervised 13 PhD students to completion, a large number of Masters theses and am currently supervising 8 research students 4 of whom are co-supervised. I currently serve as Chair to the Association of Mexican Studies in Ireland of which I was co-founder. My teaching interests include Latino fiction, Latin American cinema, feminist theory as well as a final year module on Gender, Violence and Culture on the US-Mexican border.

My research areas cover modern and contemporary Mexican and Mexican American cultural studies with a particular focus on gender. I am Director of the Centre for Mexican Studies where I have led a number of research projects including the Boom Femenino: Reading Contemporary Mexican Women’s Writing (2010) and Transitions and Continuities in Contemporary Chicano/a Culture (2011). Current projects include an edited collection of essays on Juan Rulfo (Rethinking Juan Rulfo’s Creative World: Prose, Fiction, Photography) with Dylan Brennan and a larger scale research project on cultural responses to femicide in the US-Mexico border city of Ciudad Juárez.

I work as a referee for numerous journals in my field including

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (BHS), Bulletin of Latin American Research (BLAR), Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies (JILAS), Bulletin of Spanish StudiesJournal of Feminist ResearchJournal of Inter-American Studies Association (FIAR), Hispanic Research JournalTesserae: Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies and the Journal of Transnational American Studies. I was

Chair and founding member of the Irish Association of Mexican Studies and am a member of Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS); the Association of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland (AHGBI); the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) and WISPs (Women in Spanish and Portuguese Studies). I have taken a leading role as co-convenor of the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences cluster on Identities and as Head of School have overseen the establishment of the Centre for Advanced Study in Languages and Cultures (CASiLaC) in September 2014 with current director, Dr. Patrick Crowley.


Prof. Gerry Kearns - From Panopticon to Arcade: Stories of Bodily Discipline in the Asylum

“From Panopticon to Arcade: Stories of Bodily Discipline in the Asylum”

The carceral archipelago of independent Ireland had religious and colonial roots. To the west of the city of Cork, in Sunday’s Well, a city gaol was opened in 1824. In 1852 it received a neighbour on its city side, a new district lunatic asylum named after the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Eglinton. In 1872 the Good Shepherd convent and Magdalen Asylum with its orphanage and laundry joined the string and in 1893 St Kevin’s Asylum extended the district asylum out towards the convent completing along the brow of Sunday’s Well more than a mile of institutions that confined and disciplined bodies in various ways. In 2005, Cathal Coughlan re-animated this history with a song-cycle,  Flannery’s Mounted Head, that reflected upon these stories, asking questions about the new disciplines of a commercial society. In this paper I want to use Coughlan’s work to think about some of the bodily disciplines of colonialism, capitalism and catholicism.
Bio: Gerry Kearns is Professor of Human Geography at Maynooth University. He works at the intersection of political, medical and historical geography. He is the author  Geopolitics and Empire (Oxford University Press 2009) and co-editor of  Spatial Justice and the Irish Crisis (Royal Irish Academy, 2014). He is currently working on  The Geographical Turn, a study of how geographical themes are treated in modern Irish culture, and on  Making Space of AIDS, a study of the geographical metaphors that are part of the cultural politics of the AIDS pandemic.


Dr. Elizabeth Kiely - Child Beauty Pageantry: Sexualisation or Subversion at Play?

Dr. Elizabeth Kiely, University College Cork

Child Beauty Pageantry: Sexualisation or Subversion at Play?

Child Beauty Pageants and related TV programmes such as Toddlers & Tiaras feature children (mainly girls) competing in beauty pageants.  These involve both beauty and talent routines which involve work on the bodies for participant children.  In some countries there have been moves to legislatively ban pageants (France) or at the very least to register such strong societal cultural disapproval that such pageants cannot be held (Ireland). The dominant narrative as to why child beauty pageants are problematic is that they ‘sexualise’ participants; however what other ways of reading or interpreting child beauty pageantry may be eclipsed by this dominant narrative?  The focus of this paper will be on critically analysing discourses that make up the normative cultural interpretation of child beauty pageantry. The paper will also explore other critical readings of child beauty pageantry that may help us to better understand why such pageants trouble us so much.

 Bio: I joined the School of Applied Social Studies as a college lecturer in 1996. Prior to this I worked in research and in different community based youth work posts.  My research and teaching interests include social policy, particularly youth policy and practice, penal policy and feminist social policy. I also teach modules in research methodology.  I was awarded a Government of Ireland Senior Research Scholarship in 2002 to complete my PhD.

With Dr. Máire Leane I have undertaken an oral history project on women’s work in Munster in the 1940s and 1950s, which was funded by the HEA and which has generated an on-line multi-media oral archive ( and a number of articles. Based on this oral history project and in co-operation with Dr. Máire Leane I have written a book entitled ‘Irish Women at Work 1930-1960, An Oral History’ which was published in 2012 by Irish Academic Press.

Also in collaboration with Dr. Máire Leane, I have co-edited a reader entitled ‘Sexualities and Irish Society’ which was published by Orpen Press in 2014. I was Principal Investigator on an Irish Research Council funded project entitled ‘The Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Children in Ireland, An Exploratory Study’ completed and submitted to the Government Department of Children and Youth Affairs in September  2014 and presently being prepared for publication.  I was principal investigator on an NYCI funded Review of Youth Health Inequalities, completed and submitted to the NYCI in 2014 and also in preparation for publication in 2015.


Susanne Leutenegger - Feldenkrais Method session

Feldenkrais Method session

This practical Workshop in the Feldenkrais Method is for those who are curious to learn more about “How you move when you move”.

A lesson in the Feldenkrais Method offers a non-competitive, exploratory setting where you develop the ability to perceive and respond to subtle differences in breath, muscle tone and body alignment.

In a Feldenkrais lesson you will feel increased flexibility, greater stability and balance, better focus and attention and have more awareness of yourself in space and thus grow your ability to make creative choices and transform intentions into actions.

The founder of the method, Moshe Feldenkrais integrated fields such as Judo, physics, neurophysiology, human movement development, biology and learning theories.

“Moshe Feldenkrais studied the body in movement with a precision that I have

found nowhere else.” (Peter Brook)

Please wear warm comfortable clothes and come with sense of curiosity. Mats are provided.

Bio:Susanne Leutenegger was born in Switzerland and lives and works in Cork. She teaches the Feldenkrais Method in classes, workshops and individual lessons. She is also a painter and visual artist.


Ríonach Ní Néill - The Are

The Area is a 25 minute dance film directed by Joe Lee and Rionach Ni Neill. It was made with Ciotog and the Macushla Dance Club and explores the groups relationship to the Dublin 1 area of the city.

Bio: Ríonach Ní Néill is Dance Curator at the Firkin Crane in Cork and also is also a dance artist and curator of the Galway Dance Days | Corp_Real International Dance Festival & Symposium. Her work is inspired by an engagement with human and social issues, viewing dance as a form of civic dialogue. As a performer Ríonach danced for many Irish choreographers including Finola Cronin, Fearghus Ó Conchúir, and Rex Levitates (now Liz Roche Dance), and was a longtime member of Tanztheater Bremen under the artistic direction of Urs Dietrich. She founded Ciotóg in 2006, for which she has choreographed 11 works that have been performed across the US, UK, Europe and Ireland, winning international awards. Ríonach holds a PhD in Geography from UCD and guest lectures in dance at the Bundesakademie für Kulturelle Bildung in Germany and the Landscape Architecture MA programme at the University of Sweden. She has developed dance programmes for older people, in both Irish and English, including the Macushla Dance Club in Dublin, now in its 10th year, and Ar Mo Sheanléim in the Conamara Gaeltacht, as well as dance projects for people living with dementia and people with psychiatric illness. She currently sits on the Arts & Health editorial panel.


Dr. Jacqui O’Riordan, - “The photos under the bed, and more”

“The photos under the bed, and more”

When my mother died she left me a suitcase that contained photos and family memorabilia – a suitcase that throughout my life I had frequently spent hours rummaging through.   This paper uses the presentation of self/friendships/family to illustrate and narrate the fullness of a life. It illustrates the life course of the woman  who is suffering, in the closing years of her life, with Alzheimer’s. In trying to ensure the preservation of self and dignity,  we, as her family and friends, at this time in particular, prioritised individualised care and communication, despite the challenges presented. Her gift to me now enriches and personalises our story of this time and sets it in the context of the images we have through the photos in the suitcase – the photos under the bed.

Bio: I joined the School of Applied Social Studies, UCC in 2006. Previous to this I worked as an researcher in Tanzania, from 1996 – 1998. Following this I gained extensive experience in a range of equality concerns through my work with the Higher Education Equality Unit (HEEU) from 1998-2002. I continued to work as an independent researcher in Ireland from 2002 – 2006 during which time I tendered for and completed a number of community sector research consultancies. I also completed my PhD, ‘Balancing Lives and Livelihoods: interactions of employment and gendered identities in Ireland’ in 2005.

In general, my research interests embody the activist and academic and focus on a range of issues concerning gender, equality and diversity in local and global contexts. I have a particular interest in examining intersections between lives and livelihoods, women’s studies and gender, and a critical analysis of care, drawing on the feminist ethics of care. I became involved in researching the area of child migration and the analysis of different experiences of children globally, in the late 2000s and to this end, I am a founder-member of the Child Migration and Social Policy Research Group in the School of Applied Social Studies.

Drawing on these interests, my research contributions include analyses of aspects of child trafficking, care for children, migrant children’s experiences and interactions of education, community supports for people, younger and older, living with disabilities, as well as analysis of care and family carers in Ireland. I support students in their work in areas of gender relations and identities, migration, sexuality, community and personal lives.

Maeve O’Riordan - Private lives: public bodies: women of the Irish landed class, 1860-1914.

Private lives: public bodies: women of the Irish landed class, 1860-1914.

Female members of the Irish landed class (the wives, sisters, daughters of landowners, and occasionally landowners in their own right) did not work in gainful employment during the period 1860-1914. Instead, they contributed to the prestige and status of their families through their roles as hosts, household managers, mothers, philanthropists etc. These women did not have ‘public’ roles, in that they did not leave their homes in employment, nor did they take on military or parliamentary careers like their husbands, and yet they, and their bodies, were publically scrutinized as evidence of their families’ position in the world. Clothes and jewellery worn by women were signifiers of wealth. It was women’s bodies which ultimately fulfilled the most important task in any of these families;  as it was only wives who could provide a legitimate heir.

This paper will analyse commentary on female bodies in the press, in art, and through correspondence, to argue that though women fulfilled ‘private’ as opposed to ‘public’ professional roles, their bodies were consistently available for public consumption.

 Bio: Maeve O’Riordan is an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at Maynooth University. She completed her PhD under the supervision of Dr Clare O’Halloran at UCC in 2014. Her first monograph Women of the Irish Country House, 1860-1914, will be published by Liverpool University Press in 2017. She is the author of several contributions to edited collections on  women, childhood, and sexuality, her most recent publication will appear in a special issue of the Women’s History Journal on Irish women and the First World War. She was the curator of the 2015 exhibition Lives less ordinary: the women of Airfield (John Paul II Library, Maynooth University, Castletown House, Airfield House).

Ailbhe Smyth - Title: ‘Layers and Loose Ends: Body Histories’

Title: ‘Layers and Loose Ends: Body Histories’ 

Bio: Ailbhe is teacher, theorist, essayist, poet, and political activist who has been central to the development of Women’s Studies and the recognition of LGBT rights in Ireland. She was a senior UCD academic for many years and the founding director of WERC, the Women’s Education and Resource Centre in UCD, which delivered/s courses within both the University and the community.

She played an important role in writing, editing and commissioning publications for feminist publishing house Attic Press, including The Abortion Papers (1992), a response to the X case which came to court in that year.

She has been active on feminist and radical issues since the 1970s, and is currently on the steering committee of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment. She is a former chair of the National Lesbian and Gay Federation and her involvements have included membership of the steering group of the LGBT Diversity Programme, and of ERA (Equality and Rights Alliance).

Board memberships have included: GAZE LGBT Film Festival; Irish Medical Aid for Palestine; and Ballyfermot STAR. She is a Co-Convenor of Feminist Open Forum and National Convenor of the People Before Profit Alliance.

Colleagues produced a Festschrift for Ailbhe that acknowledges and celebrates her intellectual and activist contribution to change in Ireland:

Women's Studies

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