The “My Story – My Words” Day at NUI Galway

We talked about it, we prepared for it, we sent out invitations, we shared ideas, and then it happened: on September 29, academics, artists and NGO workers came to NUI Galway on a rather rainy day to talk about language and migration.

It was a pleasure to host so many different perspectives on the topic that we have been working on. It was great to have so many different backgrounds coming together to talk about their right to call this island ‘their’ Ireland. Last but not least, it was great to have academic and non-academic voices interact on the same platform.

We started w20170929_094226ith our more specificaly social/sociolinguistic panel. Mary Gilmartin started by illustrating some of the narratives that she and Bettina Migge collected from migrants in Ireland. It was very interesting to see how the ‘placeness’ of this place can mean so many different things to different people.


Then, Lisa McEntee-Atalianis explored one of the most pressing issue20170929_095045s in Europe nowadays, the refugee crisis, from the point of view of the press and social media. What is lacking in the way in which the refugee crisis is usually narrated is precisely the migrants’ voice.

Speaking of voice, Unn Røyneland presented us some divergent voices from Oslo: rappers who claim their Norwegian identity, and the debate that ensues online about varieties such as the so called ‘Kebab Norwegian’. Who can really decide the boundaries of a language, and who can grant access to it?

20170929_101919In the following panel, Stefan Nowotny talked about the task of the translator in relation to the challenges of the time and of history, and the difficulties of relating this particular and very important task to the needs of our age of borders and incomprehension.IMG_20171002_112654

Ozgecan Kesici-Ayoubi talked about her task as a translator; from her translation of Kazakh poetry from the 19th century to her own work as a poet who lives in Dublin but takes Kazakhstan, Turkey and Germany with her.IMG_20171002_112626

Marta Golubowska (we talked about her project Be-Longing in July) showed us some of the interviews that she made in her project which brings together members of a community in Kildare to talk about their homes.

After lunch, it was time for theatre, poetry and film. OT Platform  are a community effort, and so they took the stage in three: Bernie, Maud and Rula. They talked about grounding their theatrical efforts in Dublin 8, the need to build an expressive space in the community, and the projects that they developed around it.

Jijo Sebastian, a film director who works in Dublin but whose film speak mostly Malayalam, is starting a collaboration with them soon. In Galway, we had a chance to hear his ideas on making locally grown cinema, and to watch a few minutes of his darkly comic film “Box“. Due to time constraints, we had no time to show scenes from “Parakayapravesham”, but you can watch it here.IMG_20171002_112609

Also, Kasia Lech (who teaches at Canterbury Christ Church University, but was also one of the founders of Polish Theatre Ireland) gave a very appropriately titled talk: “They came here and stole our jobs and then they took our language”. In its works, PTI have always tried to intercept different linguistic directions and suggestions, and play an interestingly complex linguistic picture of contemporary Ireland.IMG_20171002_112619

Anne Mulhall talked about her experience with establishing a Women’s Writer Network, which included refugees and migrant women and which challenged borders of expression on so many levels.

Christodoulos Makris read passages from his essay “Travelling Light: Shedding Poetry’s National Baggage” which resonated with so many things that were being said. The key question is: do we really need to pigeon-hole poets into national slots, and have them compete as if it was the Eurofestival? What are the choices available to a poet who wants to bypass all of that?

Nithy Kasa also talked about borders: both in her native DR Congo, and in Dublin; all of this in very powerful verse. While Nita Mishra presented some of her poetry about misconceptions, stereotypes and the necessity of finding a voice. She also talked about the difficulty of rendering her Hindi words in English.

Fiona Bolger, who was of great help in reaching out to poets across Ireland (thank you Fiona!) talked about the upcoming anthology All the Worlds Between. And another anthology to be presented was Migrant Shores, of which we wrote a few days ago.

As you probably know, we have been walking the streets of Ireland in the past few months, talking to migrants about their languages, their hopes, their needs and aspirations (more of that in the future). We have been lucky to work with Teresa Buzckowska from the Immigrant Council of Ireland, and she was here with us to talk about the many things that her organisation does.

The symposium was concluded by the O Briain lecture, for which we invited Patrick Stevenson. His latest book is a very compelling exploration of the language stories in a building in Berlin. The students of the NUI Galway course in drama and theatre helped us bring it to life (thank you guys!).

We would like to thank the speakers who came from near and far, the Moore Institute and the Immigrant Council of Ireland; the office of the registrar, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh who funded the O Briain lecture; the many interns and staff of Italian at NUI Galway who gave us a hand; and many others whom we have encountered on our journey so far. Our journey is not over: stay tuned for more updates!






Migrant Shores – Irish, Moroccan & Galician Poetry

The borders of Irish culture are truly expanding, and that is happening before our very eyes. Today I would like to mention an anthology that came out very recently, well after we started looking in May for migrant art: Migrant Shores.

Migrant Shores is a collaboration between writers from the “three Atlantic countries” (as Manuela Palacios writes in her introduction) of Morocco, Ireland and Galicia. It is a translational dialogue between a number of poets writing in English, Arabic and Galego, translating and responding to each other. The topic is one that is very close to our heart: migration. As the bodies of the poets travel in this globalized world, translation makes their words travel as well, reaching different audiences in different corners and making unexpected connections visible.

Lorna Shaughnessy of NUI Galway is among the poets who participated, and she will be with us to read some poems from the anthology on September 29.



All the worlds between

One week to go before our symposium, and we are planning a truly full day next Friday…

After all the talks and the discussions, after the reception (have you checked out the programme?) some of us will walk to Charlie Byrne’s Book Shop for the launch of All the Worlds Between, an anthology of poetry between India and Ireland, edited by K. Srilata and Fiona Bolger, and featuring some of the poets who will speak at our event during the day.

This is how the editor describe it:

No one must claim me.
On the journey I will need
no name, no nationality.
Let them label the remains
(from Imtiaz Dharker “Lost property”)

This collaborative poetry project has brought together poets from India, Ireland and in between to share their work. These writing partnerships resulted in four strands: poems as conversation, poems at angles to one another, poems which speak out of turn to other poets in the group and, not surprisingly, stories of friendship.

When we invited poets to join us, we asked them to look at questions of home, belonging, identity, exclusion and homogenisation.From conversations about shoes and what they evoke, to exchanges about parents, poems responding to the transgender experience to inward-angled poems and even chain poems created stanza by stanza over email and WhatsApp, through all of these we found ourselves eavesdropping on a collective consciousness, ears to the ground listening for the beat of life.

We hope together we have created a drum. We, the poets, hold the skin in a large circle, stretching across continents, experiencing the vibrations beyond ourselves and between our worlds. We hope our words vibrate with at least some of the worlds between.

We look forward to seeing you there!

All The Worlds Between - Galway Launch_A5

The programme of the “My Story, My Words” day is here!

Hello everyone, I am pleased to announce that our programme for the symposium is ready. It will be a full day of study, conversation and performance about language and migration. Scholars of linguistics, literature and geography; poets; NGO workers; theatre companies; film directors and visual artists are coming to NUI Galway on September 29 to talk about the role that language has in the experience of migration, and how to create a conversation among all the components of a multicultural society.

The symposium takes place in the Hardiman Research Building, in room G010, and it will be concluded with the prestigious Máirtín Ó Briain Lecture.

All welcome!




Meet Stefan Nowotny

As we continue unveiling the academic speakers a tour September 29 symposium, and we are happy to start September with Dr. Stefan Nowotny from Goldsmiths, University of London.

A philosopher by formation, Dr. Nowotny has worked at universities in Belgium (Louvain-la-Neuve), Germany (Lüneburg) and Austria (Klagenfurt) since 2001, and collaborated on several international projects. Since 2000, he has been involved with the European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies, a transnational network of European scholars, activists and institutions reflecting on the shared spaces, movements and transformations in the continent.

Dr. Nowotny teaches in the department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, and his research focuses on “political theory, the linguistic and social complexities of translation and the entanglements of historical and contemporary epistemologies and imaginaries.” Given his interest in the cultural and political dimensions of translation, combined with his interest in collaborative and participatory forms of art (a topic that is close not only to our hearts, but also that of our artist guests), we look forward to hearing his contribution on “Tales and Silences: Revisiting the Task of Translation”.

Negotiating Language and Identity Online (meet Unn Røyneland)

We are very happy to announce that we have added Professor Unn Røyneland from the University of Oslo to our list of guests for September 29.

Prof. Røyneland works at the Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan, a center of excellence whose goal is to “contribute to society’s management of the opportunities and challenges of multilingualism through increased knowledge, promoting agency for individuals in society, and a better quality of life, regardless of linguistic and social background.”

Her own research interests are very varied within the area of sociolinguistics, and they include language policy and planning, language and dialect contact, language variation, and youth language. She has studied and published extensively about multilingual youth in an urban setting, with a particular interest in the last few years new forms of media and communication such as hip-hop and the internet. She has been involved in the UPUS project, which studied linguistic practices among adolescents in multilingual environments in the city of Oslo.

We look forward to welcoming her in Galway and hear her talk “Virtually Norwegian: Negotiating Language and Identity Online.”

Patrick Stevenson to give Ó Briain Memorial Lecture as part of the “My Story – My Words” symposium

The keynote speech for our September 29 symposium will be given in the evening by Professor Patrick Stevenson of the University of Southampton.

Working at Southampton since 1979, Prof. Stevenson teaches German and Linguistic Studies. His interests are in German sociolinguistics, language ideologies, the politics of language, multilingualism and language biographies. He has been involved in projects regarding language interaction, discourse and policy in the European Union (from a German perspective in particular). In 2009, he was awarded the Jacob-und Wilhelm-Grimm-Preis 2009 for his outstanding contributions to the international promotion of German.

He has published extensively on the topic of multilingual societies: his latest book is Language and Migration in a Multilingual Metropolis: Berlin Lives (2017), published by Palgrave as part of the Language and Globalization series. The book looks at Berlin’s multicultural environment, taking as a case study an apartment building in the highly diverse district of Neukölln, and focusing on how people use their experiences with multiple languages to shape their life stories.

We look forward to welcoming Professor Stevenson to Galway. We are also happy to announce that his lecture will also serve as the annual Ó Briain Lecture.

The lecture marks the career of the Irish scholar and academic Máirtín Ó Briain. Máirtín Ó Briain was a renowned scholar of Irish language and literature, an internationally acknowledged expert on the Fiannaíocht tradition of Ireland and Scotland, a member of The Irish Manuscripts Commission, and of the Irish Folklore Society. Máirtín was held in the highest regard by his colleagues but especially by his students, many of whom went on to pursue careers in the field of Celtic Studies.

The lecture is organized annually by the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at NUI Galway and deals with topics that are of interest to the members of the School.