From Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow and Chief O’Neill’s music to Michael Flatley and mayoral politics, Chicago has a central place in the history of Irish America.
Chicago welcomed a very different type of Irish event from April 10 through April 13, as Northern Illinois and DePaul universities co-hosted the international meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS) at the Marriot Hotel on Michigan Avenue.
This international conference brought more than 400 scholars to Chicago from across the country and from as far away as Turkey and Korea.
“This was one of the largest and most impressive conferences in our fifty year history,” says Sean Farrell, NIU professor of Irish Studies, and president of the ACIS, “It’s obvious people are excited to come to Chicago, and we are thrilled to have them experience the city and its dynamic Irish community.”
Farrell is quick to point out the emphasis of community within the Irish studies community and beyond, which makes the ACIS distinct from other academic conferences. “A lot of people who are not academics will still come to these conferences to learn more about Ireland, to reconnect with Irish history, and to celebrate ‘Irish-ness.’ ”
Built around the theme, Ireland Past and Present, the conference featured keynote addresses by Christine Cusick (Seton Hill University), Ciaran O’Neill (Trinity College Dublin), and James H. Murphy (DePaul University), as well as readings by the Irish novelists Jamie O’Connell and Glenn Patterson.
“What’s exciting about these conferences is that you participate in these cutting-edge conversations about where the scholarship is going. It’s a chance to learn and to see what’s being done in Irish history and literature, and to discover new voices: the people who are going to be creating new knowledge in the next generation,” Farrell says.
The conference comes on the heels of a meeting in Washington, D.C., in which key Irish studies professors from all over the country were invited to meet with important Irish figures, including the Taoiseach (the Irish Prime Minister), Enda Kenny. As president of the ACIS, Farrell was invited by the Irish ambassador to the United States to discuss cross-cultural educational opportunities for Irish and American students at respective universities, including NIU.
Many of the meeting’s attendees, including Farrell, were able to meet with the Taoiseach to share ideas about creating connections between American and Irish scholarship.
“These events are in line with the types of things we do at NIU in terms of internationalizing the curriculum,” Farrell says. “It’s important and exciting that NIU is at the front edge of this.”
To learn more about Irish studies and other international opportunities at NIU, contact Farrell or the Division of International Programs.
by Cameron Orr