Welcome to Estudios Irlandeses, the scholarly journal of AEDEI, the Spanish Association for Irish Studies.
The change of editorship in a journal such as Estudios Irlandeses, with its well-defined trajectory, seems an appropriate moment to take pause and reflect on our aims and functions. What is the role of a journal of Irish Studies today? What can we contribute, coming from outside Ireland, to the state of the art?
These are indeed important questions to address. But first, let me say that Irish Studies, viewed from abroad, can be seen above all as a highly dynamic and exciting forum of discussion. The multi-faceted nature of Irish culture, history and society facilitates the contrasting of many and varied opinions, and promotes fruitful debate relating to all things Irish; on this I think we can all safely agree. However, what is perhaps less readily appreciated is that through interpreting Ireland we are also dealing with the world at large. For many of us, the study of Ireland’s past, it language, literature, arts, film, media, etc. is a path towards a better understanding of the forces that govern modern societies today, and thus a means of understanding our condition as citizens in the twenty-first century. A focus on Ireland necessarily leads us to reflect on issues of colonialism, emigration, feminism, the role of the church, the dangers of globalization, the conflict between modernity and tradition, the drawbacks of uncontrolled economic development, institutional politics, sectarian politics, radical politics… It’s all there. In short, what we see in Ireland enriches our perspective on multiple areas of knowledge. It is to be hoped that such a multiplicity of perspectives can also work in reverse, that is, that the discipline known as Irish Studies can also benefit from so variegated an assortment of opinions.
The nature of Irish Studies is itself very complex. Hardly a year passes without a conference somewhere in the world devoted to the future of Irish Studies, while at almost every academic gathering there is a panel discussion on the subject. Seldom has a field of knowledge projected itself so openly and willingly into the unknown. Scholars try to encapsulate the essence of Irish Studies, but its definition remains stubbornly elusive, and every paradigm shift, as well as every economic downturn, brings with it a demise of old assumptions, to be replaced by new topics and approaches. As Liam Harte once wrote, the discipline known as Irish Studies is “engaged in a relentless appraisal of its own fundamental principles”. Perhaps the reason for this state of affairs lies in the fact that the field asserted itself in the final decades of the twentieth century, at a time when the influence of Postmodernism as a theoretical discourse was strongest. Hence an aversion to grand narratives and a fear of any constricting delimitation of content both played their part in blurring the lines of interpretation.
Whatever the case, such a situation has been to our advantage, and here we can point to the innovative nature of much work done in the study of Ireland over the past decades. Being in permanent pursuit of an object of investigation is precisely what makes Irish Studies an attractive area of research, and perhaps why scholars around the world feel that their work is pertinent and that their opinions are perceived as being of value. A huge intellectual territory remains to be mapped, deciphered and analysed, and we should take each new turn in the evolution of our discipline as a further step towards our ultimate ends, and never as a liability.
In Estudios Irlandeses we advocate above all an international, multidisciplinary, cross-fertilizing approach to the study of Ireland, in which academic rigour does not enter into conflict with the joys of transversality and the excitement of an intellectually challenging endeavour. It was Dr. Rosa González Casademont who almost single-handedly initiated the project of creating an academic journal on Irish Studies, under the auspices of the Spanish Association for Irish Studies (AEDEI). It is to her merit alone that the foundations of our journal were established, and it is her model that I will strive to follow as the new editor. Dr González Casademont belongs to the first generation of scholars who believed in the potential of emerging Spanish researchers to produce ground breaking investigation in Irish Studies, and during twelve years as general editor of Estudios Irlandeses she maintained the standards of excellence that have characterised the journal. I would like to invite fellow scholars around the world, just as she did, to help us continue on this wonderful adventure.
José Francisco Fernández
Electronic Journal of the Spanish Association for Irish Studies (AEDEI)