PhD Research in Focus

 Claudio Alberti PhD ResearcherClaudio Alberti

PhD Title: Does the use of bottom up approaches in peacebuilding interventions increase local ownership?

I am a Ph.D. Researcher in International Peace Studies and a Development Aid worker with an academic background in Political Science and Economics. Over the past years, I worked with different UN Entities and NGOs in development and humanitarian settings in Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central/South Asia in progressively responsible M&E capacities.

My doctoral research focuses on local ownership in peacebuilding processes and analyzes how and if Adaptive Peacebuilding interventions can build local ownership through the empirical case study of the peacebuilding process in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. My main research interests are: adaptive peacebuilding, bottom up approaches to peacebuilding, Design Monitoring and Evaluation for peace and peace education.

Supervisor: Professor Etain Tannam


 Irene BarbottiIrene Barbotti

PhD Title: Beatitudes and Woes in the Synoptic Tradition: a Catalogue of the Q-Source?

I graduated in Philosophy (BA, MA) at Università degli Studi (Milan) and I am now a Ph.D. Researcher in the field of the New Testament (Religious Studies), with a particular focus in the range of historical-critical studies and two-sources hypothesis criticism. The goal of this research is threefold: 1. it aims to deepen the complementary value of the sets of beatitudes and woes attested by Matthew and Luke; 2. it attempts to reconstruct the hypothetical Q-catalogue that may originated these sets of sayings; 3. it investigates their peculiar use in the narratological structures of these two gospels.

Supervisor: Professor Benjamin Wold 


Lydia BlakeLydia Blake

PhD title: A Political Pope In Hell: The Cardinal Sin. The Political Theology of Dante Alighieri

MPhil in International Peace Studies and recipient of the James Haire Memorial Prize for best dissertation. Honours Bachelor’s Degree in World Religions, Theology & Near and Middle Eastern Studies.

My current research explores how Dante Alighieri’s (1265-1321) political theology is expressed within his Divine Comedy. It will demonstrate how Dante uses theology to reflect critically on the governing political authorities and the ecclesiastical organisations and to articulate his plea for reform, by using two strategies, the first being the literary device Contrapasso and the second, through his critical and creative imagining of an alternative world in which divinely sanctioned accountability takes concrete shape.

Supervisor: Professor Andrew Pierce


Simon BrummerSimon Brummer

PhD Title: Jews and Judaism in Luke-Acts – A Socio-Cognitive Analysis of Early Christian Anti-Judaism and the Parting of the Ways

I was working as a Social Worker (BA, MA) for 4 years in my home country Germany before I moved to the United States to study Theology in Chicago (MDiv). Since September 2022, I am a Doctoral Student in Religious Studies as part of the structured PhD program at Trinity College in Dublin. For my PhD research, I apply insights and methods from the Cognitive Science of Religion for the analysis of Anti-Judaism and the Parting of the Ways in Luke-Acts. My goal thereby is to detect socio-cognitive patterns which describe the dynamics behind the portrayal of Jews and Judaism in Luke-Acts regarding the early diversification between Christianity and Judaism. This will shine new light on these issues which have been debated for a long time in biblical scholarship without having been resolved yet.

Supervisor: Professor Benjamin Wold


Nemo Castelli, S.J.Nemo Castelli, S.J.

PhD Title: Sacred Secularity: an Investigation of Raimon Panikkar’s response to Secularization.

My research engages with Political Theology and its relationship with Theory, Praxis and Mysticism… as three complementary ways of knowledge and of participating in the rhythm of reality. In particular, it explores an alternative philosophical and theological account of the crisis of the modern and neoliberal secularization process of Chilean society, grounded on Raimon Panikkar’s approach in dialogue with the work of Charles Taylor and Ignacio Ellacuría – one of the main figures of the Latin-American Liberation Theology movement. It draws critical attention to the cosmovisions underlying the understanding of the contradictions of modernity, the dualistic modern scientific thinking and the notion of secularization as they have being shaped in the Western context. Then, through Panikkar’s a-dual vision of a Sacred Secularity, founded on a holistic Cosmotheandric –cosmic, divine, conscious – intuition of reality, accessible to every human consciousness through a triple experience: sensitive (aesthetical), intelligent (noetical) and spiritual (mystical), my research stresses the need of profound transformation of our knowledge and our way of participating in reality to achieve a just and fulfilling future for humanity and the Earth. Panikkar’s vision will allow me to indicate a way of overcoming both (a) the intellectual and (b) ethical reductionism of human life in general, and of Latin-American Liberation Theology in particular, introducing (c) mysticism (contemplation) as a moment alongside theory and praxis. Through the awareness of the whole, that makes any other interpretation of reality possible and that leads to action, hope to make a contribution addressing the modern neoliberal crisis that the Chilean society is facing.

Supervisor: Professor Michael Kirwan


Seungeun Chung is a PhD candidate of International Peace StudiesSeungeun Chung

PhD Title: Militarised masculiity and UNPK - the case of South Korea

I’m a PhD candidate of International Peace Studies. I have focused on gender issues in the post-conflict peacebuilding process. My master thesis focused on a concept of gendered security as a framework for designing and implementing a more gender-sensitive and a comprehensive peacebuilding process. The current research is about the impact of peacekeeping experience on the masculine identity of soldiers who serve in the peacekeeping operations.

Considering that every peacekeeping mission involves military personnel, regardless of using armed forces, and that problems caused by peacekeepers’ misbehavior such as sexual exploitation and abuse against the local women are still prevalent, I think it is necessary to explore the construction of soldier’s militarized masculinity and how it is changed, and reshaped by peacekeeping missions. I’m also highly interested in the education field especially for women and children in conflict-ridden societies who can rarely have the opportunity to get an education. It would be great to cooperate with these people in making genuine, sustainable ‘security’ and ‘peace’.

Supervisor: Professor Gillian Wylie


Benedict JT ClarkBenedict JT Clark

PhD Title: Christian Wonder and the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh

My career in jazz and contemporary music, following my training at Dartington College and the Guildhall, London seemed to culminate with the recording of ‘deep water drop off’, an Irish World award winning album with ‘Sin e’ 1999. In 2001 I became a full time teacher at Kodaikanal International School in South India and have been teaching variously Music, Theatre, World Religions, Theory of Knowledge and World Arts and Cultures since then. I met my Indian wife at the United World College, India. This second career has posted me in the Himalayas, the kingdom of Eswatini and the United World College at Maastricht.

During this time I have also followed up my early interest in mysticism by taking an MA in Psychology of Religion and BD at Heythrop College, University of London. In 2021 I was accepted onto the PhD programme at Trinity’s Irish School of Ecumenics. Leading me perhaps to a third stage.

My research centres on the work of two controversial, Christian pluralist philosophers of religion: Raimon Panikkar who developed a non-dualist approach to religious experience by which interreligious dialogue could be centred in Christian life, and John Hick, whose work focuses on the interpretation of religion predominately in the Anglo-American positivist context. They both have lasting influence as theologies of religion. I am trying to bring them into dialogue with each other and to assess their insights as contributions to education - epistemological and intercultural. What are the implications of their answers to the fundamental philosophical inquiry, the question of the one and the many, for the field of pedagogy and the sphere of educational life?

Supervisor: Prof. Jude Lal Fernando


Paul CorcoranPaul Corcoran

PhD Title: Christian Wonder and the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh

My research aims to move towards the development of a modern Christian theology of wonder today. It begins by tracing to the Patristic preoccupation with curiositas the negativistic assessment of wonder throughout much of the history of Christian theology. Building on Aquinas’ ideal of a ‘virtuous’ wonder, it will reimagine Christian wonder as a kind of active ‘receptivity’ with which Christians are called to partake in the inherent mystery of their faith, a sacramental state of mind attuned to the transcendent ‘more-than-is’ (Maritain) of God’s presence in the world and in the Sacraments of the Church. Patrick Kavanagh’s poetry will be established as displaying the virtue and sacramentality redolent of true Christian wonder and will offer an evocative example of the role Christian art can play in the cultivation and communication of a flourishing theology of wonder today.

Supervisor: Prof. Fáinche Ryan


Bernadette CunninghamBernadette Cunningham

PhD Title: Whatever you have learned from me…put it into practice: Spiritual formation and lived theology in female religious run and occupied Irish institutions from 1922 to 1996

The voices of the nuns who were involved with Mother-and-Baby Homes and Magdalene Laundries are missing from the literature and research. This work will seek to understand nuns’ spiritual formation, alongside the influences that shaped their lives, so that a greater understanding can be reached of the nuns’ lived experiences before all those that were involved in these institutions die. It is hoped this part of the research will be conducted by in person interviews.

There is also a gap in looking at the ‘input’ factors that led to these institutions flourishing in Ireland. Public inquiries and survivor testimony give an insight into what happened, but very much less is written on answering ‘why’ and ‘how’. Currently my main strands of research are: context setting; the history of the Orders who ran these institutions; the relationship of the Catholic Church and the State, specifically in outsourcing welfare; the theology of shame, obedience, clericalism, redemption strategies; the binary view of women (‘fallen’ vs. ‘virgin’) and seeking to chart the history of these views. During lockdown, I completed an MA in Family History (charting the history of the family farm in Leitrim). I also have a Diploma in Theology, an MBA and a BSc in Economics. Previously I was an award winning property developer. I am on the boards of a number of charities and also play the piano.

Supervisor: Professor Linda Hogan


Alexander CupplesAlexander Cupples

Ph.D. Title: The early medieval Eucharist and veneration of saints in the Antiphonary of Bangor: an attempt to reconstruct.

Having grown up in the despair of the Troubles in Co. Down, beside an enigmatic ruined eighth century church, as a united Ireland becomes more likely, I now theorise that the theology and history of the early Irish church is one of the few periods of Irish history which could unite both cultures in Northern Ireland as well as improving our self-esteem as a society.

This manuscript is one of the oldest Irish manuscripts in existence and has international significance as one of the oldest surviving liturgical manuscripts of Europe. This study has the potential to reconstruct the eucharist and veneration of the early Irish church, especially Bangor, responsible for the training of one of the most internationally influential Irishmen of all time: St Columbanus. This project will be multi-disciplinary, applying the disciplines of theology, history, linguistics, liturgics, hagiography and palaeography in order to gauge to what extent early Irish theology could be applied to present-day ecumenics and peace building.

My academic background is archaeology and paleoecology at Queen’s University Belfast (B.A.); and early Irish history, hagiography, linguistics, genealogy and literature at University College Cork (M.A.).

Supervisor: Professor Fáinche Ryan


Shane DalyShane Daly

PhD Title: Called to Preach the Word: Laity and the ministry of preaching’ – A case study in ecclesiology.

The challenge to have the gospel heard in the present age is immense. This thesis will explore a question of profound importance for the Church in the present and for its future - the question of ministry and who can minister in the Church. It is a question whose answer will impact upon how the gospel is proclaimed, how discipleship is nurtured, and how the mission to evangelize is carried forward.

The thesis will explore questions of ministry, paying particular attention to the ministry of preaching, and a consideration of who may, and who may not, preach today. The theology underpinning these permissions will be explored, critiqued and evaluated to determine if current law and practice might perhaps need to change in light of a deepening theological understanding of ministry.

Supervisor: Professor Fáinche Ryan


Kurt Esslinger

PhD Title: Resisting Imperial Peace on the Korean Peninsula: The Role of the Churches in the U.S.A., North Korea, and South Korea in Building Just Peace.

I currently serve as a mission co-worker sent by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. to work with the National Council of Churches in Korea (NCCK) focusing on their international department and their reconciliation and reunification department. In that role I have been working on their campaign for ending the state of war on the Korean Peninsula, as the armistice signed in 1953 only ceased the war, but the promised negotiations to establish a peace treaty never succeeded. In the meantime ecumenical institutions have been working to create reconciling relationships across the boundary of conflict between South Korea and North Korea. With the help of the World Council of Churches, the NCCK first met the Korean Christian Federation from North Korea in Glion, Switzerland in 1986. Those meetings became known as the Tozanso Process and continued until the COVID pandemic paused all North-South exchanges. The relationship is still maintained by the Ecumenical Forum for Korea (EFK) for which I serve as coordinator. My research will consider how a focus on reconciliation between the US churches and churches on the Korean Peninsula, based in a Just Peace framework, might be necessary to break the deadlock in the peace process. As North-South reconciliation has been covered extensively, a new focus needs to be paid on reconciling US Christians to their Korean counterparts considering the power, authority and imperial influence that the US government and military still wields over South Korea and the US's tendency to become an obstacle to peace processes, such as the inter-Korean process recently attempted in 2018.

Supervisor: TBD


John FayJohn Fay

PhD Title: The Aesthetics and Poetics of the Oxford Movement

My research attempts to trace and place the Oxford movement - a movement that sought to reclaim the ancient Catholic heritage of the Church of England - in the society and the culture of Victorian England using contemporary philosopher Charles Taylor’s account of the development of the modern identity as an interpretive key. In particular the research will focus on the influence early Romanticism had on the Movement’s key protagonists, and on the Movement’s literary and poetic output, stretching beyond its initial phase to encompass later 19th century poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Christina Rossetti.

Supervisor: Professor Michael Kirwan


Megan GreeleyMegan Greeley

PhD Title: Rethinking Conceptions of Mentoring within Adaptive Peacebuilding in Warzones Using a Postcolonial Indigenous Research Paradigm

My research focuses on the reconceptualization of mentoring as an adaptive peacebuilding practice in warzones. I'm specifically examining the axiology, ontology, and epistemology of relational mentoring within active warzones and how individuals can move within relational, traditional and dysfunctional mentoring relationships to build and sustain networks and cultures of peace across conflict lines and across levels of society.

My case study is Nuba Mountains in Sudan which has been in an active state of civil war between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan People’s Liberation Army-North (SPLA-N) since 2011 without UN support.

Supervisors: Professor David Mitchell and Dr Dong Jin Kim.


Nandini GuptaNandini Gupta

PhD Title: The Wandering Minstrels of Hope: Tracing the Role of Women’s Grassroots Peacebuilding in Kashmir and Northern Ireland

My research is in feminist peace studies and war politics. I am identifying the similarities of peacebuilding approach in terms of non-violent peace movement against the militarism in both of these societies. My work is preoccupied with the pivotal role of women in investigating the importance of political identity in post-conflict reconstruction and the agency of unarmed political collaborators in bringing out the waves of sustainable change and practices of inclusion.

I am also a research assistant for “Pericles”, an EU funded project and I have presented papers at international conferences around Dublin, London, Oxford and Delhi. My research interests are Feminist peacebuilding, Transversal Politics, and Non-violent political action. My academic background includes an MPhil in Gender Studies, an MA in English and Cultural Studies, and a BA in English.

Supervisor: Professor Gillian Wylie


Ursula HalliganUrsula Halligan

PhD Title: Can the hierarchical church be reconciled with Pope Francis’s vision of a synodal church.

My dissertation will consider the compatibility of two different visions of church which appear to hold contrary positions on the exercise of power and authority in the Catholic Church. In particular, two theological concepts that ostensibly express different ecclesial conceptions of power and authority i.e. “hierarchy” and “synodality” will be explored and critiqued. The argument is that the concepts are not necessarily opposites. It is possible for a synodal Church to be hierarchical. In making this argument the dissertation will examine the crucial role played by Cardinal Léon Joseph Suenens in the shaping of the Church’s understanding of itself in the modern world at the Second Vatican Council.

Supervisor: Professor Fáinche Ryan


Vicky HollandVicky Holland

PhD Title: ‘Pigs and Power – A Chronological Journey into the Transition of Pigs from Symbol of Deities to Expressions of Masculinity in Jewish and Christian Contexts.’

I am a PhD researcher based in the school of religions and theology, working in inter-disciplinary fields that centre on the theme of animals and gender in religious contexts. This work builds on my interests in eco-feminism, human-animal studies, and religion and ecology and the importance of religion in shaping, the treatment and uses of animals, gender relations, and directing interreligious and intercultural relationships in contemporary society. Ethics has been the overarching theme of my academic career, having previously taught the subject for 9 years at undergraduate level. My MA thesis centred on applying utilitarian ethical formulae to the treatment of zoo animal subjects. Ethics, eco-feminism, eco-justice, liberation theology, biblical studies, religious pluralism, social-psychology, the philosophy of human-animal relationships, interreligious relations and discourse, animals in religious contexts, and religion and ecology will all feature as major inter-disciplinary influences and form the primary inspiration for my future scholarship. Through my work at Trinity and as I progress in my career, I hope to produce research that addresses broad social issues and results in outcomes that positively contribute to more equal and liberated societies and promote justice for marginalised people and non-human animals.

Supervisor: Professor Jacob Erickson


Stephen HuwsStephen Huws

PhD Title: The Virgin Mary in the Lucan Corpus: Biblical Reception in Dublin’s Stained Glass, 1850-1931

My thesis looks at the reception of biblical stories featuring the Virgin Mary which are found in the Lucan corpus, that is, the Gospel of Luke and book of Acts of the Apostles. The approach is one of iconography and of reception, looking at how these windows relate to the art history of their respective subjects and how they related to the biblical text, and later textual tradition. The case study covers the period from 1850, when stained glass begins to appear in greater numbers in Ireland up until 1931 and the death of Harry Clarke, one of Ireland’s highest regarded artists. This encompasses significant changes in Irish history, including the disestablishment of the Anglican Church of Ireland, and independence movements resulting in the partition of the island and emergence of an independent state. This study will examine the varying depictions of the Virgin Mary during a period in which the far larger Catholic church rose from poverty to wealth and prominence and many significant Irish artists began and finished their careers. Mary is both a fruitful and highly revealing subject matter for the purpose of this study, given both the prolific depictions of her in Christian art and the diverse choices made in portraying her, which allow us insight into understandings of the Bible and faith of artists, patrons and congregations.

I completed my BA in Film Studies at the University of Kent in 2013 and my MA in Medieval Studies at the University of York in 2019. I am the recipient of the Provost PhD Award from Trinity College. When I’m not working on my PhD I enjoy photography, Gilbert and Sullivan, and cricket.,

Supervisor: Professor David Shepherd


Leszek LechLeszek Lech

My Ph.D. thesis investigates aspects of religious experience in early Christian apocalyptic writings, especially in the Ascension of Isaiah which originates with a Jewish text. This composition is particularly important because it is widely considered to be important for the study of early Jewish and Christian apocalyptic. I am analyzing fragments of the writing that may be expressions of ancient Christians and how they expressed their encounters with the divine. This research is based on the observation that these texts often have as their raison d’être in some religious experience of author and/or of community.

Supervisor: Professor Benjamin Wold


Endika MartinezEndika Martinez

Philosophical and Theological uses of the concept of analogy by Hans Urs von Balthasar

This research studies the philosophical and theological uses of the concept of analogy by Hans Urs von Balthasar. On the one hand, the philosophical analogy is illustrated in the biblical dynamism between the Old and New testament, Thomistic metaphysics of the real distinction, Augustinian meta-anthropology and the artistic testimony of the apprehension of being. On the other hand, Balthasar introduces the theological analogy with the famous phrase: ’Christ is the concrete analogy of being’. He explains this type of analogy with the concept of the subsistent unity-in-difference in the Trinitarian life, revelation of Christ and the Church. As a result of a careful examination of these themes separately, this research argues for a necessary (albeit analogous) distinction between the philosophical and theological types of analogy. In our opinion, this contributes to the effervescent scholarly debate on the nature and grace controversy.

Supervisor: Dr. Michael Kirwan


Emmett O‚ÄôReganEmmett O’Regan

The Indefectibility of the Apostolic See

Since the publication of Amoris Laetitia in 2016, there has been a resurgence of the medieval speculation on the problem of a heretical pope. According to the medieval canonists, a pope who succumbs to formal heresy would automatically forfeit the Petrine office. For the critics of Amoris Laetitia, this scenario raises the potential for a modern-day schism. This thesis will attempt to demonstrate that this debate has already been definitively settled during the First Vatican Council, when St. Robert’s Bellarmine’s view of papal indefectibility was raised to dogmatic status as a secondary object of papal infallibility. The Relatio of Vatican I shows that the Council fathers understood that the doctrine of the indefectibility of the Apostolic See necessarily precludes the possibility of a heretical pope.

Supervisor: Professor Fáinche Ryan


Ivan PetrovskiIvan Petrovski

PhD Title: Hearing God’s voice and God’s silence in the Book of Samuel.

My thesis will examine the role and character of God as revealed in the book of Samuel by focusing on two themes present in this book: hearing (God’s voice) and (divine) silence. God in Samuel is often described as someone who speaks (through words, deeds, and silence) as other characters do. For this reason, primary attention will be given to the eight divine/prophetic oracles in which God either directly, or indirectly (through a prophet), addresses: Eli (1 Sam 2.27-36; 3.11-14), the elders of Israel/the nation of Israel (1 Sam 8.10-18; 12.1-24), Saul (1 Sam 13.13-14; 15.10-28) and David (2 Sam 7; 12.7-12). The assumption is that God’s speeches, in most cases spoken through a prophet, represent the key markers in the plot development in the book of Samuel. The fact that the role of God and His character in the book of Samuel have not been fully explored from the perspective of God’s voice/silence suggests that this thesis fulfils an obvious need from the perspective of the academic study of the book of Samuel.

Supervisor: Professor David Shepherd