13th AFIS (Association for Franco-Irish Studies) Conference
Université de Lille (France) (24-25 May, 2019)
Theme: Margins and Marginalities in Ireland and/or France
French and Irish societies have been characterised in recent times by major upheavals wrought by the threat of terrorism, the collapse of economic and social structures, mass migration, the diminished role of organised religion, the ghettoization of minorities, increased homelessness and a general distrust of institutions. As a result of all these changes, the margins are now beginning to attract more and more people who find themselves placed in disadvantaged circumstances through political upheaval, and/or economic or cultural necessity.
Living on the edge may be imposed by circumstances; it may be chosen by those who wish to identify with the marginalized; it may even be a natural home for those who reject conventions. In all cases, it is a place teeming with contradictions, where worlds are made and unmade, a locus of both opportunities and lack of opportunities. On the margins, stereotypes and norms are challenged, dependence and independence co-exist, as do rejection and mattering (Nancy Schlossberg). Migration in particular fosters marginality as the clash of identities confines the migrant to a structure of ambivalence (Robert Park and Adam Weisberger) that leads him to become ‘something different’. As a consequence, margins may be a crucible for the reinvention of reality, a cradle of innovation and a seed of creativity.
The margins and the condition of marginality have therefore sometimes been a source of inspiration for artists, musicians, writers, mystics and even those engaged in culinary activity. Occasionally, distancing oneself from what is perceived to be a ‘desirable’ or ‘accepted’ mode of existence can help one to see things more clearly. However, clear thinking runs the risk of discommoding the ruling classes who have a vested interest in keeping things as they are. The tension between the centre and peripheries and the interaction between them fuel the dynamics of change. But the world is racked by instability and uncertainty about the future, as climate change and political disquiet dominate international debates, but without any resolutions being implemented. Questions of ‘truth’ and ‘authenticity’ inundate a public discourse that is preoccupied with instantaneous communication, the validity of which it is impossible to gauge.
This conference seeks to address the contribution of the margins to reflections on the present situation and to the elaboration of the necessary transformations that may eventually emerge from the current confusion, an increasingly relevant topic for France and Ireland.
Certain issues that might be addressed could include the following:
- The impact of increased marginality on French and Irish societies: Are things different now than they were in the past?
- The Irish diaspora in France and its contribution to the current re-invention of French society and identity;
- The way Churches and ruling elites deal with the issues that emerge as a result of the margins becoming home to more and more groups, some disadvantaged and others who freely choose this condition;
- Food studies as an example of the cultural hybridity fostered by the development of marginalities;
- Fictions of place – making room for the margins;
- Positive and negative marginalities;
- Round tables are planned around food studies and the diaspora.
Fr Tony Flannery, a founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests, Ireland
Dr Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire (Dublin Technological University, Cathal Brugha Street)
Dr Pilar Villar-Argáiz (University of Granada, Spain), editor of Irishness on the Margins: Minority and Dissident Identities (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)
 Nancy K. Schlossberg, "Marginality and Mattering: Key Issues in Building Community", New Directions for Student Service, N° 48, 1989, pp. 5-15.
 Robert Park, "Human Migration and the Marginal Man", American Journal of Sociology, vol. 33, N° 6, May 1928; Adam Weisberger, "Marginality and its Directions", Sociological Forum, vol. 7, N°3, 1992, pp. 425-446.