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Identities in Transfomation

The Identities in Transformation theme is a major research focus for the Trinity Long Room Hub and our nine partner Schools and the Library. The theme is also one of the university’s 19 strategic multi-disciplinary research areas. These are research fields in which TCD has a critical mass of world-class researchers, and which have the scale, resources and ability to address important research challenges with considerable social, cultural and economic impact. The theme was launched by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, in April 2013.



Research Projects

COURAGE: Cultural Opposition - Understanding the Cultural Heritage of Dissent in the Former Socialist Countries

COURAGE is a three-year international research project funded by Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. The project is led by Dr Balazs Apor will create the first digital database of both online and offline, as well as private and public collections in Europe which testify to the survival of various forms of cultural opposition in the former socialist countries. These collections cover a period from the rise of communist regimes in the region to the fall of the Iron Curtain. COURAGE will further a more nuanced understanding of how these collections work, what functions they have in their respective societies, and how they present their holdings to national and international audiences. The project will contribute to the development of nuanced interpretations of dissent, and will advance the preservation of collections as part of common European heritage. The role of TCD is to explore collections of cultural opposition in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, and to address the importance of Ukrainian diaspora collections in the preservation of the legacy of dissent.


Members of the theme organise events relating to research throughout the year. This include Sinature Events in the Trinity Long Room Hub, conferences, workshops and student-led seminars. A selection of events is listed below:

Lecture Series 2013-2016: Europe's Violent Memories

This three-year series of public lectures delivered by eminent international scholars in different disciplines, such as history, literary and film studies and memory studies, is exploring how war, its traumas and its contested memories have proved pivotal to the formation of European identities in the 20th century. The lecture series was organised by Juergen Barkhoff, Professor of German and Head of School, Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies.

Workshop May 2015: Memory and Identity in Central and Eastern Europe

Two-day workshop, funded by the Hub's RIS grant, brought togther both established and new scholars. Research findings were presented on memories of traumatic wartime and post-war events in Europe – such as the Holocaust, Stalinist terror, and collapse of communist regimes – and their impact on the transformation of individual as well as collective identities. This event was organised by Dr Balazs Apor, Assistant Prof in European Studies, Centre for European Studies.

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?


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. Identity debates are occurring through reflection on the decade of commemoration and the wider re-evaluation of Irishness, and also in the context of massively changing migratory patterns in both Ireland and Europe.  These transformations are embedded within the context of greater global interconnectedness, but con-currently greater individualisation and associated notions of risk and uncertainty.

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 what we are currently experiencing.

This research field undertakes a multi-facetted investigation of how the negotiation of identity is linked to processes of transformation on the level of history and culture. It is an investigation which allows deeper insight into the dynamics between social and political change, shifts in cultural memory, cultural and artistic practices, and human agency.

Currently over 70 researchers and their postgraduate research students across 10 of the 24 Schools in Trinity College  are actively involved in this research theme.  They represent and bring together fields as varied as History, Classics, Art History, Music, Drama and Film Studies, English and Irish Studies, Literary and Cultural Studies, Linguistics, Philosophy, Health Sciences, Theology, Peace Studies, Gender Studies, Sociology, Psychology and Neuroscience.

“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


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.

Steering Committee

A Steering Committee  has been established to oversee the research theme and guide the development and delivery of new research projects and activities related to the theme over  the course of its duration:

Prof Juergen Barkhoff (Chair), Head of School of Languagues, Literatures and Cultural Studies and Theme Convenor

Prof Cornelius Casey, Confederal School of Religions, Theology and Ecumenics

Prof Daniel Faas , School of Social Sciences and Philosophy
Prof Joan Lalor, School of Nursing and Midwifery
Dr Lorna Carson , School of Linguistic, Speech and Communication Sciences
Prof Elaine Moriarty, School of Social Sciences and Philosophy
Prof Ciaran O’Neill, School of Histories and Humanities
Dr Tom Walker , School of English

Prof Christine Poulter, School of Drama, Film and Music
Prof Clemens Ruthner, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies


For queries or further information on the 'Identities in Transformation' research theme at Trinity College Dublin, please email the theme convenor:

Professor Jürgen Barkhoff, Dr. phil., F.T.C.D.
Head of School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies
(Department of Germanic Studies, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies)


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