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“Rapid change is a defining factor of our times; one which presents us with a challenge as to how we choose to react to it. Do we do so defensively, by entrenching ourselves in all too familiar, narrow self-images? […] Or do we embrace it by becoming open to new ways of seeing and defining ourselves; by drawing on the plurality of inter-disciplinary scholarship for the solutions that are best designed to respond to current challenges in their complexity?”
Irish President Michael D. Higgins on 24 April 2013 at the launch of the ‘Identities in Transformation’ research theme at the Trinity Long Room Hub, Arts & Humanities Research Institute

The full video of the 'Identities in Transformation' research theme launch can be viewed here

Our Vision for the Identities in Transformation Research Theme:

To develop Trinity College Dublin as a leading, world class national and international centre of excellence and preferred collaboration partner to investigate questions of identity transformations from a multitude of disciplinary perspectives, in increasing interdisciplinary cooperation and with increasing impact on public debate, societal practice and policy making.

Our Key Questions and Challenges:

When President Higgins endorsed the research theme Identities in Transformation at its official launch, he highlighted especially the topicality, timeliness and relevance of the theme in a period of crisis and accelerating change. The disintegration or even breakdown of traditional and stable identities, hyper-individualism and an increasingly fluid sense of self have become pressing realities of our time with profound impact on individuals and collectives; they have made the ongoing renegotiation of identities a necessity. Processes of accelerating change destabilize and reformulate identities in many forms and at many levels, create new risks and uncertainties and force individuals and societies to react, to adapt and to change. While this is a challenge and often a threat, individuals and societies need to embrace this in an open spirit and as an opportunity. The President made it clear how urgently society needs a critical reflection of these processes, including their historic dimension, and how much we have to gain from multi-facetted and interdisciplinary research, driven by the humanities and the social sciences, to ensure an open, critical, pluralist, differentiated, solution seeking and empowering attitude to the challenges these transformations of identities pose. Since the launch of the theme a little more than two years ago, our research theme is rising to this challenge.     

Identities, both on the level of the individual and the collective, are formed and develop in complex processes that negotiate attitudes, values and behaviours, and shape our social and cultural practices. Cultural memory, how it is constituted and contested, plays a central role in the formation of such identities. The complex and shifting dynamic between memory and identity becomes particularly relevant in times of crisis, disruption, and rapid change, such as we are currently experiencing:

  • Within Ireland, identity debates are currently occurring through reflection on the decade of commemoration of Irish nation building and the wider re-evaluation of Irishness, but also in the context of substantially changing migratory patterns in both Ireland and Europe or in light of the disintegration of religious authority, the concomitant pluralization of religious identities and the related debates on ethics, sexuality and values.
  • Within Europe, the crises of recent years was much more than an economic or institutional crisis and can be analysed as a crisis of a common European identity or lack thereof and of an increasingly fragile sense of common values that underpin a common project under the strain of contested memories. Re-identification with the European project, Europeanisation as a process of increasing integration and inclusivity, the overcoming of neo-nationalist divisiveness and the development of a sense of European belonging and active citizenship will all depend on a critical examination of the legacies of the past, the vision of the future and the re-negotiation of the interplay between local, regional, national and supranational identities.
  • In the context of globalization, radically and fast changing migration patterns, new mobilities and ever increasing global interconnectedness, enabled and enhanced by the digital and telecommunications revolutions, reformulate not only communication practices and notions of connectedness, sense of place and belonging, but also fundamentally the relationship between presence and absence, reality and virtuality, body and self.

Topics of this complexity can only be investigated in an interdisciplinary setting which brings a multitude of perspectives together. Within Trinity College, over 200 researchers from across the whole spectrum of disciplines and research fields have associated themselves with the theme. Of these 45 are core members. This research community represents and brings together fields as varied as Art History, Classics, Drama, English, Film Studies, Gender Studies, Health Sciences, History, Law, Linguistics, Literary and Cultural Studies, Peace Studies, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, and Theology.

Our Research Clusters:

Due to the rich and complex field of enquiry, we have organized the research within five thematic clusters:

  • Identity Politics and Memory Contests: the past in the present: concepts of Irishness on this island of Ireland, in the diaspora and in its European and global contexts; the decade of commemorations; the interplay between local, regional, national and transnational identities;
  • Narratives and Performances of Identity: Literature and drama; life-stories and case histories, creativity and imagination; cultural memory: the ability of literature and aesthetics to link individual and collective experience;
  • Globalization, Migration and Belonging: migration and the new Irish; hybrid and intercultural identities; the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion; processes of globalization and their impact;
  • Embodied Identities: the body; sexuality and gender; emotions; parenthood; concepts of (dis-)ability, illness and wellbeing;
  • The Self in the Digital World: the impact of the ongoing revolutions in communication technologies; digital identities; virtual communities and de-territorialization of experience;

Across these clusters, since the launch of the theme two years ago, over 200 research events such as lectures, seminars, workshops and conferences have taken place, many of those organized in conjunction with and held in the Trinity Long Room Hub. Among those were 5 public lecture series, 14 workshops and conferences, 18 public lectures given by Visiting Research Fellows, a further 25 public lectures,  close to 40 research seminars in the Arts & Humanities, mostly on different aspects of cultural memory, identity politics, contested memories and identity narratives. A further 40 research seminars related to the Social Sciences on globalization and migration issues where also held. Details on all those can be found on the events section of this website.

Our Central Common Research Questions:

In a time of rapid societal, cultural and technological changes and of ongoing renegotiations of our relationship to the past:
  • How can the impact of such changes on identities, both individual and collective, be better understood?
  • How can we gain, through exploration of this impact, deeper insight into the dynamics between cultural and aesthetic practices, shifts in cultural memory, social and political change and human agency?
  • How can the multiple dimensions of this phenomenon be adequately investigated in multi-disciplinary reflective configurations that encompass multiple aspects of identities such as national, ethnic, racial, linguistic, gender, religious, work, virtual, global among others?
  • How can the insights into identity transformation be translated into impact on public debate, values, attitudes, social practices and policy making?

Last updated 11 May 2017 tlrh@tcd.ie (Email).