I suppose it’s about time I gave an update on my research process. While I don’t have to begin researching immediately, not only are my class is structured to help me begin the process, but I enjoy it a lot anyway. Some of you may know my interest already, but broadly speaking I’m interested in studying the period of time in Ireland known as the ‘Troubles’. What I’m interested in doing is taking this and comparing it to the U.S. Civil Rights movement. I’m interested in doing this for several reasons. The first, and probably the most important, is that having travelled to both areas I believe that not only do they have many similarities, but I’ve been particularly struck with how even though both cases have come to peace, that people ‘on the ground’ still often harbour feelings of bitterness and resentment toward the other side. Both in Belfast and in the U.S. South, there’s a sense both of how far each has come and how much work still needs to be done in the area of reconciliation. Thus, I think there many parallels which might be interesting for academic study.
One thing that I’ve enjoyed being in Ireland is the conversation starter I have with people. With a foreign accent people naturally ask where I’m from, which then leads to why I’m here, which then leads to what I’m studying. Most Irish people are at least intrigued, if not shocked when I tell them that I’m studying Irish history. Some find it weird, and some find it very exciting that I’m studying it. Still, it is a great conversation starter nonetheless. Depending on the situation, and the person, I may or may not say much about my research interests. However, when I do it is very interesting to see the response I get. Most people remember the Troubles so I get all kinds of reactions. Several of my conversations have been very helpful in helping to determine ideas for my topic.
The first idea is to examine a student movement that originated at Queens University known as the People’s Democracy. Pursuing this route, I would compare it with a similar group that was formed in the United States known as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC for short. Both groups organized marches and rallies to peacefully protest for civil rights. In fact, the PD specifically tied the ideas behind their marches is to the work of Martin Luther King Jr.. Considering my interest in memory, it might be interesting to look at the remembered experiences of both groups.
The second idea is to examine the work of peace communities towards the reconciliation process. In Northern Ireland there’s a group known as Corrymeela, and in the United States if you’re familiar with John Perkins, his organization known as the John M. Perkins Foundation For Reconciliation and Development or JMFP for short. While this topic may be a little too current for a history dissertation, at the same time it may be very relevant to my topic.
It is possible that these ideas may not need to be separate dissertations, and can in fact work together in one dissertation. Time will tell. At the moment I’m researching as much as I can about both topics, but particularly about the Irish side of things. I’m trying to understand both issues so that I can then begin to draw connections and work towards a final dissertation topic. I shall keep you posted on my progress.
This is a part of my History at Queens series. I am writing on what I’m learning in my modules and as a part of my own research. Hope you enjoy!