Welcome to Estudios Irlandeses, the scholarly journal of AEDEI, the Spanish Association for Irish Studies.
Over the last 25 years a great deal of ground has been covered in the discipline of Irish Studies. The various associations, at both a national and an international level, have brought together scholars in many simposia organized around Irish themes, and their ensuing publications have done much to push this field of knowledge to the forefront of academic excellence in the Humanities.
Iris Studies today involves a dynamic community of lecturers and students who share a passion for their subject, and their commitment to the cause shows no sign of wavering. Within the academic sphere, those who work in this area need no convincing of the intellectual rewards of pursuing such lines of research. Yet the flame is often kept alive by perhaps one or two enthusiasts in the English departments of universities around the world. For example, one dedicated scholar at the National University of La Pampa, in Santa Rosa, Argentina, María Graciela Eliggi, has done a great job in promoting Irish Studies in the south of Latin America. Since 2007 she has directed four major research projects related to the Irish in Argentina; together with her colleague María Graciela Adamoli, they published a fine book of interviews with Irish academics and writers, In their Own Words (2011); she and her team organized in Santa Rosa the 4th International conference of SILAS (Society for Irish Latin American Studies) which also was the 8th conference of ABEI (Brasilian Association for Irish Studies); they have translated Angus Mitchell’s book on Roger Casement in South America (two separate editions) and, more recently, in October 2017, María Graciela Eliggi has been appointed president of the recently created AEIS (South-American Association for Irish Studies: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Paraguay). Specialists like Eliggi organize conferences, publish high-quality papers and monographs, and transmit their knowledge to postgraduate students, many of whom will eventually become lecturers themselves. Additionally, the growth and vigour of Irish Studies is served by a number of dedicated journals, these based in a variety of institutions, which together create an exciting and developing field of scholarship in which interesting things are always afoot.
There is, however, a final frontier in Irish Studies, one that remains stubbornly unassailable: the institutionalization of the discipline in the vast majority of universities. The truth is that, despite the rude health of academic activity here and the almost tangible buzz of excitement that accompanies academic gatherings and publications, Ireland-related subjects are still not integrated in the curricula in most universities. Consequently, the professional prospects for postgraduate students who specialize in this field are drastically reduced. Let us imagine the hypothetical case of a young scholar who has attended conferences, both at home and abroad, who has perhaps received bursaries to participate in working groups at foreign universities, and who has even spent time at an Irish university for the purposes of doctoral work. The probability that he/she will find a job teaching in the field of Irish Studies is extremely low, because the discipline itself, albeit a thriving one with an international profile, has yet to figure in many departamental systems in the form of courses of study. At best, our young postgraduate might ocassionally manage to teach the work of an Irish author within an English literature programme.
In order to break through this glass ceiling and achieve a permanent presence on English degree courses, our strategy for the future might well include conveying to academic authorities the message that Irish Studies is worthy of being studied as a fully-fledged discipline, either as part of a larger degree framework or indeed as a distinctive entity. One of the principal obstacles here is that for some planners our field is too specialized, and the easy solution is to subsume it within broader degrees in English Studies. This is particularly in the case in non-Anglophone universities. In order to deal with such a situation, scholars and lecturers need to adopt strategies according to their particular circumstances. Thus, whereas pushing for the recognition of Irish Studies as a specific group of subjects within an English degree programme is an option, seeking allegiances with other disciplines and areas of teaching is perhaps also worth pursuing: Postcolonial Studies, Atlantic Communities courses, broader Humanities degrees, etc. are all areas which might benefit from the inclusion of Ireland-related subjects.
More generally, it would be beneficial to continue creating a favourable climate of opinion in academic circles, so that Irish Studies is increasingly seen as a viable option when reforms to degree programmes are being made at institutions around the world. A global perspective and the sharing of our experiences is a key element here. In this spirit, our 2018 issue of Estudios Irlandeses includes Michael Kenneally’s reflections on a model that has been particularly successful, the creation of Irish Studies in Canadian universities. Also in the present issue is an analysis by Jochen Achilles of the situation of Irish Studies in the German speaking countries. Furthermore, we would like our journal to continue to be one of the many forums of debate where the future of Irish Studies can be discussed, and in this vein we invite scholars from around the world to send us their experiences and reflections, in the form of academic articles, in which they examine the challenges of establishing Irish Studies in their part of the world. That notwithstanding, the journal remains open to academic contributions of all kinds, related to Irish literature, history, society, art, media, language, etc. and in this regard I would like to thank the generous advice offered for this issue by a number of experts in the field: Douglas Atkinson, Vito Carrassi, Michael D’Arcy, Andre Furlani, Kevin McCafferty, James McNaughton, Manuela Palacios González, Auxiliadora Pérez Vides and Ryan Twomey. Together with the permanent members of the scientific committee, whose work is the guarantee of academic rigour in this journal, these scholars have shared their knowledge and expertise with us, for which we are hugely grateful.
José Francisco Fernández
Electronic Journal of the Spanish Association for Irish Studies (AEDEI)