The MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at Maynooth and the MU Sociology cluster “Critical Political Thought, Activism and Alternative Futures” present
Making sense of the Rising: The role of social science
Public lecture by Donagh Davis
Amid widespread discussion of Ireland's 'decade of centenaries', one upcoming anniversary looms particularly large - that of the 1916 Rising. The legacy of the Rising has been famously controversial - charting a course from lynchpin of state-sponsored national memorialising up to the 1960s, to subsequently much more muted official commemoration - and at times bitter contestation - as the legacy of the Rising came to be seen as tainted by the armed struggle campaign of the Provisional IRA in the 1970s. With the Provisionals' war coming to an end via the Northern Peace Process, the coast was clear by the mid-2000s for government and establishment in the southern state to attempt to reclaim the legacy of 1916. However, it is not just the state that has displayed a newfound interest in the Rising. Tricolours and explicit references to 1916 are now ubiquitous at political demonstrations on apparently unrelated topics - such as opposition to water charges - in ways that would have seemed odd even a few years ago. References to the 'republic betrayed', and to the broken promises of the 1916 Proclamation, now percolate through anti-austerity discourse. Meanwhile, in spite of attempts at recuperation of the 1916 legacy by some elements of the establishment and mainstream political parties, the debate on 1916 within the intelligentsia has moved on little from the 'revisionism wars' of the 70s, 80s and 90s - with two sides polarised over the rights and wrongs of the Rising. While historians have been central to this debate, social scientists have played little role. Trying to set aside moralising questions of right and wrong, this talk will ask how social scientists can help make sense of the events of a hundred years ago. It will suggest that one way to do so is to strive for a more rigorous causal analysis of why the Rising happened, and precisely what effect it had on ensuing history. It will also be suggested that neither partition nor southern secession were inevitable prior to the Rising, but that the Rising initiated a path-dependent sequence that made these outcomes extremely difficult to avoid.
Donagh Davis completed his PhD at the European University Institute on “Infiltrating history: structure and agency in the Irish independence struggle, 1916-21” in 2015 and is an assistant adjunct professor at the Dept of Sociology, TCD.
His most recent publication is "What's so transformative about transformative events? Violence and temporality in Ireland's 1916 Rising." In Political Violence in Context: Time, Space and Milieu, edited by L. Bosi, N. Ó Dochartaigh and D. Pisiou (Colchester: ECPR Press, 2015).
Tuesday November 3rd, 6 pm
Maynooth University, Callan Building, lecture hall CB7 (north campus)
Admission free – all welcome