Ideas that make a difference

Friday, May 18, 2018 - 12:45

Staff from our Department were involved in major international conference on Marx’s 200th birthday, attended by over 200 scholars, students, community and civil society activists, with participants from Argentina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK, Ukraine, the US and of course Ireland. The conference exemplified the interdisciplinarity of Marxist academic traditions as evidenced in the many different University departments which supported the event and the many disciplines represented, including adult and community education, anthropology, applied languages, Chinese studies, computer science, education, English, equality studies, geography, history, history of ideas, humanities, media studies, philosophy, political economy, politics, social policy, social psychology, sociolinguistics, sociology and independent scholars.

The conference was opened by the President, Professor Philip Nolan with Dr Conor McCarthy (English). The first plenary session saw Paul Murphy TD and Joan Collins TD in discussion with Dr Sinéad Kennedy (English). Friday evening’s keynote was given by the legendary Italian political philosopher Antonio Negri, chaired by Dr David Landy (TCD) and Saturday morning’s keynote by leading US theorist Professor Jodi Dean, chaired by Dr Conor McCarthy (English). Saturday afternoon’s closing discussion included Prof. Joe Cleary (formerly Maynooth, now Yale), Dr Kieran Allen (UCD), Dr Marie Moran (UCD) and Dr Michael Pierse (QUB) discussing Marxism and Ireland, chaired by Dr Fergal Finnegan (Adult and Community Education). There were another 40 papers, meaning that at any one time participants could choose between 4 separate sessions, often spilling out from our 70-person seminar rooms. On Sunday participants took part in the North Inner City Folklore Project’s oral history walking tour of Dublin’s “Monto”, with community historian Terry Fagan.

The discussions were lively and collegial, with a full social and cultural programme, and participants seem to have really enjoyed the event: feedback has been very positive. Discussions are in progress around a possible publication or publications of conference papers. The keynote sessions were filmed at the request of colleagues in South Africa and will be made available online shortly. Media attention has been positive with pieces on RTE and in the Dublin Review books and Chinese TV. Our Twitter account had nearly 80,000 views in the 28 days leading up to the conference.

We are very grateful to all those who supported the conference: the Depts of Anthropology, English, Geography, Philosophy and Sociology; the Dean of Social Sciences; the Commemoration Committee; the Conference and Workshop Fund; and the Sociological Association of Ireland. This enabled us among other things to make attendance free for all Maynooth students and the staff of supporting departments, and we were delighted to see the number of familiar faces as well as guests from further afield. Thanks also to the Communications Office and the President for their support.

Colin Coulter (Sociology)
Laurence Cox (Sociology)
Fergal Finnegan (Adult and Community Education)
Sinéad Kennedy (English)
Conor McCarthy (English)
Chandana Mathur (Anthropology)