History of the dead body in Ireland explored at conference

Posted on: 20 September 2023

The significance of the dead body in modern Irish history and culture will be explored at an inter-disciplinary conference hosted by Trinity's Department of History  in partnership with Dublin Cemeteries Trust this week.

Over two days experts from the disciplines of archaeology, history, medicine and social science will share new research from this emerging field of death studies. Keynote speakers Dr John Troyer (University of Bath) will deliver a talk entitled ‘A Brief History of the Hyper-stimulated Human Corpse’ and Dr Clodagh Tait (Mary Immaculate College, Limerick) will give a paper on ‘Wraith, apparition, ghost, spirit: the substance and insubstance of dead bodies in 19th- and early 20th-century Ireland’.

View of crosses at a resting place for funerals in County Wexford, by artist Frazer, William, d. 1905. Credit: National Library of Ireland. 

Day one of the conference is taking place in Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute on Thursday 21st September, and day two in Glasnevin Cemetery and Crematorium on Friday, September 22nd.

The conference will also hear new research on topics including Cork Workhouse burials; the dead body in the Irish revolution; the repatriation of Rodger Casement’s body the in the 1960s; the bodies of the hunger striking dead; Daniel O’Connell and the development of garden cemeteries in Ireland; and Sudden Adult Death Syndrome in the 20th century. The full programme can be found here.

Dr Georgina Laragy, Dublin Cemeteries Trust Assistant Professor in Public History and Cultural Heritage, said: “The Irish have long been considered 'good' at death, but histories of death remain to be written for Ireland. The dead body is significant privately, and within families, but also publicly. Collectively, the dead have been used to build political communities and this has been reflected in where and how we bury the dead. Our treatment of our dead demonstrates the divisions within Irish society between those we value and those we do not.

Aoife Watters, CEO Dublin Cemeteries Trust, added: “This is a wonderful opportunity to bring new and established scholars together in Trinity's Long Room Hub and in Glasnevin Cemetery's Milestone Gallery to explore the importance of the dead body for Irish culture. Dublin Cemeteries Trust is delighted to support this venture, further evidence of the fruitful relationship between ourselves and the School of Histories and Humanities at Trinity. DCT have a strong commitment to our ongoing innovative and valued collaboration with Trinity.”

Media Contact:

Fiona Tyrrell | Media Relations | tyrrellf@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 3551