The IRISH SEMINAR 2015
Peripheral Modernities? Ireland, Argentina, Latin America.
27th June – 11th July 2015
IDES, Buenos Aires, Argentina
It has been argued that the crucible of modernity was not so much in the Western metropolis as in the encounter of the metropolitan countries with other parts of the world, especially through the development of colonialism and capitalism. The consolidation of the Argentinian republic, as indeed all of the American republics, took place in part through the destruction of the indigenous peoples, opening their lands to colonization, while the 16th and 17th century English often compared the native Irish to the American indigenes and proposed their extirpation (though there are indeed obvious limits to this comparison). A periphery implies a center, yet how can we understand European nationalism without understanding the creole variety – as Benedict Anderson calls it – that preceded it, revolting against metropolitan rule in the Americas? Atlantic history in the age of revolution can draw obvious parallels, for example, between San Martín, who led Argentina’s struggle for independence, and someone like Wolfe Tone, both ‘creoles’ revolting against the metropolis, the land of their ancestors, and both influenced by the earlier revolutions of North America and France.
Argentina was a center, one of the richest countries in the world until the 1950s, a magnet – second only to the USA – for millions of European emigrants (including thousands from Ireland, whose descendants form the largest Irish community outside of the English-speaking world). While Ireland exported people, Argentina imported them (though for a period in the first decade of the new millennium, the roles were reversed). But Argentina, which represented the future for millions of emigrants, was also a capitalist periphery. Its uneven modernity is the basis for what Beatriz Sarlo has called Buenos Aires’ ‘modernidad periférica’. Something similar can be observed between the provincial stagnation of Dublin, a largely pre-industrial town, and the sophisticated literary production of Yeats, Joyce and Beckett. How can we characterize a Borges or a Joyce as ‘a master on the periphery of capitalism’, as Roberto Schwarz did of the great Brazilian writer Machado de Assis? What is the relationship between capitalism and modernism? The creation of a national culture was a key project in both countries, and what Joep Leerssen has called ‘auto-exoticism’ played an important role. The genre of the gauchesco, which used the language typical of the gauchos, the most authentic of creoles, was a response of Argentinian urban intellectuals at around the same time as the Cultural Revival in Ireland sought cultural authenticity in the Irish-speaking peasant.
To bring the Irish Seminar to Buenos Aires is to seek to answer urgent questions about Irish Studies in a non-Anglophone and a global context. Our project is not comparative for its own sake, but seeks to ask new questions about Ireland and Irish Studies in the world by looking at parallels with Argentina (and indeed with Latin American Studies). We also wish to explore aspects of the Irish experience specific to Argentina – Irish emigration to the region, the Irish community there, the reception of Irish literature in this part of the southern hemisphere. We hope that our stay in this dynamic and sophisticated metropolis will challenge our notion of Irish Studies.
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Executive Director: Diarmuid O’ Giollain
Directors: Christopher Fox, Patrick Griffin, Declan Kiberd, Barry McCrea, Bríona Nic Dhiarmada, Robert Schmuhl.