Society

Applications for Scholarship to NUIM MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism

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Deadline for applications for this scholarship is Monday, July 1 – please circulate

A scholarship covering full course fees for the MA CEESA at Maynooth, awarded on the basis of practitioner excellence in community education, action for equality and / or social movements.

The MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at NUI Maynooth has now completed three very successful years in the course of which we have worked with a wide range of social movement activists and community educators who are using the course to reflect on their own experience, develop their practice and build links across movements with others committed to equality and social justice.

To mark this, and in keeping with the course’s own commitment to equality, we are offering a scholarship for one student entering the course this autumn. The scholarship is named after the Dublin Lockout of 1913, which marks a historical moment in the encounter between social movements and Irish society, and a landmark in struggles for equality. It has also become a key reference point in community education and popular culture.

The 1913 Lockout Memorial scholarship is innovative in form, representing the course’s status as a practitioner course and the University’s commitment to community engagement. Rather than duplicate the various scholarships based on academic criteria, this scholarship is awarded on the basis of practitioner excellence in the field and by a committee comprising both practitioners and scholars in the area.

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Book Review: Social Work and Social Theory- Making Connections by Paul Michael Garrett

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Book Review: Social Work and Social Theory- Making Connections by Paul Michael Garrett (Polity Press, 2013)

At the outset of this text Garrett outlines his view that there is a frequently unrecognised value in applying social theory to social worker’s day-to-day education and practice. In this book, he makes the case that theoretical engagement can help social workers to navigate those “indeterminate zones of practice” (p.1). Garrett notes in his introduction that social work is often seen and represented as a practical, common sense profession- an ideal activity for “retired City bankers and ex-insurance brokers” as Garrett notes, quoting a UK government official (p.2). The reality is, of course, far more complex than this and Garrett positions himself in opposition to the harmful, yet enduring, belief that social work is, or indeed can be, “theory-less”

The book concentrates on critical social theory developed in Europe by contemporary thinkers and attempts to highlight where these theoretical positions and social work may meet, intersect and be beneficial to social work. At the outset of the book, Garrett explains two theoretical omissions from the text. The first of these being the work of Michel Foucault which he explains by way of noting that much has already been written linking Foucault’s work to social work. Furthermore, Foucauldian theory is thought to a greater or lesser extent on many post-graduate social work courses and I felt the omission could be justified. The second omission which Garrett addresses is around feminist theorists. Garrett acknowledges the absence of feminist theory in the text but states that the book itself is informed by a feminist analysis.

Garrett’s first chapter proper is focussed on the questioning theories of modernisation. He begins by questioning what happened to post-modernity, and its relationship to social work education. Garrett makes two important claims- firstly, that social work academia came to postmodernist thought much later than other disciplines and secondly, that the social work academy’s short engagement with postmodernist theorisation did not impact upon the day-to-day practice of social work professionals primarily because of the complex, sometimes impenetrable language of postmodernist theorisation. However, Garrett does acknowledge that the postmodernist turn in social work and the “blurring of boundaries between professionals” (p.23) along with the move toward actuarialism in social work did change how services were delivered. In line with this shift toward counting, and drawing on the work of Fredric Jameson (2000), Garrett argues that “a new kind of superficiality” (Jameson, 2000:196, quoted by Garrett) evident in late-capitalism was mirrored in the development of one-size fits all social work “tools” which have become increasingly prevalent, particularly in child protection and probation practice.

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Understanding European Movements: New Social Movements, Global Justice Struggles, Anti-Austerity Protest

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The book Understanding European Movements, edited by Cristina Flesher Fominaya and Laurence Cox, has just been published and might be of interest to readers.

Cristina Flesher Fominaya and Laurence Cox, eds. (2013) Understanding European Movements: New Social Movements, Global Justice Struggles, Anti-Austerity Protest. London: Routledge (Advances in Sociology series).

304 pp. hardback, ISBN 978-0-415-63879-1, release date 21 May 2013.
List price $143 / £80; discount $114.40 / £64 (order via www.routledge.com using discount code ERJ67*).

A paperback edition will come out in due course but in the meantime we are encouraging people to try ordering this through university and public libraries.

Across Europe, social movements are resisting the onslaught of austerity politics and challenging the legitimacy of the neoliberal economic model. In Ireland, commentary from both sides often revolves around the relationship between Irish movements and those elsewhere in Europe. At the same time, much of this analysis is flimsy, restricted to English-language information and anecdotal accounts. Understanding European movements represents a collaborative project by participants in the Council for European Studies’ social movements research network. Its 15 chapters include authors based in 11 countries whose analyses are all grounded in ethnographic and historical research on these movements – in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Spain and the UK as well as transnational relationships – and in keeping with the traditions of European movement research many are active, critical participants in the movements they analyse and the book is written for movement activists as well as researchers. The book offers a comprehensive, interdisciplinary perspective on the key European social movements in the past forty years and sets present-day struggles in their longer-term national, historical and political contexts.

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Progressive Film Club, Sat 27th of April, Labour Rights and Immigrant Workers

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Progressive Film Club – at the New Theatre · 43 East Essex Street · Dublin 2 · Saturday 27th of April

Labour Rights and Immigrant Workers

Admission free. (Donations welcome.)

2 p.m.
Irish premiere

Living as Brothers (2012)

Living as Brothers looks at the lives of Jamaican migrant workers toiling in the orchards of Niagara-on-the-Lake in Canada. In their own words, these men, some of whom have been returning for more than twenty years, tell of the second life they have created for themselves in Canada, the reasons for their making this journey, and their struggles at home in rural Jamaica. Told over a season of picking fruit, their story is arduous, stressful, and precarious, one that offers few second chances. · Produced and directed by Kevin Fraser.

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Alternative Proposals

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Alternative Proposals

the Fine Gael health minister proposes a panel of two obstetricians

and four psychiatrists – one of whom must be a perinatal psychiatrist –

to assess a woman who is seeking an abortion on the grounds of suicide

ideation…there are only three perinatal psychiatrists in the country

The Sunday Times, April 21st, 2013

 

Any woman of child bearing hips,

unfortunate enough to find herself

alive on the patch of weeds between Muff

and Kilmuckridge, or Skibbereen

and Hackballs Cross, must,

to have her baby/babies

legally abhorted, obtain, before she kills her

self, without bribery or offer of

sexual favours, the signatures

of six former members

of the Irish National Liberation Army;

six personal friends of Shane Ross;

six random guys shouting

obscenities in the street;

six women from Barna

who thought Michael D’s speech

last week to the European Parliament

was absolutely marvellous;

six Sean Nós dancers in residence

at accredited universities,

six plumbers who’ll definitely be there

first thing Tuesday morning,

six Dutch guys from Doolin

who make their own clogs, or

six ex-members of the pop group

Six.

 

KEVIN HIGGINS

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A gombeen-Nation Once Again

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Here’s an extract from an article on Gom’beenism by Conor McCabe, which Rabble published in their great community print magazine and have now provided online. To help keep Rabble magazine in print please support their fundit campaign.

Gombeen (g?m ‘bi:n). Anglo-Irish. Usury. Chiefly attrib., as Gombeen-Man, a money-lender, usurer; so also gombeen-woman. Hence gom’beenism, the practice of borrowing or lending at usury.

The 19th-century term Gom’beenism, the practice of borrowing or lending at usury, is increasingly referenced in relation to Ireland’s domestic economic practices. Conor McCabe takes a look at the history of the Irish middleman and argues that they haven’t gone away.

On Tuesday 3 January 1882 the nobility and landed gentry of Ireland met in Dublin to discuss the future of the island. Among those present was R.J. Mahony, a landowner from Kerry. He stood and said that the recently-passed land act would be the ruin not only of the landlords but of the small farmer as well. He explained that as soon as the landlord class was put out of the way, another would come along to take their place.‘The merchant, the trader, the usurer, the gombeen man,’ said Mahony, were ‘the future rulers of the land.’ Mr. Mahony called these the middlemen, and although he may have had his reasons for defending landlordism, his warnings were not without foundation. Forty years later the middleman were in the ascendancy and set about carving the newly-independent free state in their image – and we’ve been living with the consequences of that ever since.

Just who were these middlemen? In an article published in 1982 Michael D. Higgins wrote that the mainstream image of the period – and the one taught at secondary level – was one of poor small farmers fighting against perfidious, foreign landlords. However, what was glossed over in such a black and white analysis was that there was another struggle – a class struggle – going on, one that involved small farmers and the rancher/grazier families. These large rancher farmers fattened cattle for export, and occasionally they were the local shopkeepers, the arbiters of credit in the community, and the dispensers of loans. It gave them significant societal influence and power. Not all shopkeepers were graziers, of course, but neither one was the friend of the smallholder. The social relations which underpinned Irish rural society were not only framed by land, but by credit: those who needed it, and those who profited from it. And in the north and west of Ireland, it was the Irish entrepreneurial spirit of the middleman and his gombeen cousin that held sway over credit.

Read the rest here.

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Ireland and the Enclosure of the Commons

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This article was originally published on Conor McCarthy's blog, Reflections from Damaged Life on the 6th of April.

Last January I climbed Djouce Mountain, in Co. Wicklow, with my old friend and comrade Andrew. We went up by the Barr and White Hill, and on to Djouce summit. It was a beautiful day of hard frost, and the hills retained a dusting of snow. It's a magnificent, easy hike. Cresting the Barr, where we passed the memorial to JB Malone, the view down to Lough Tay and Luggala, over to Fancy and Knocknaclohoge, and beyond to Lough Dan and Scarr, was superb. Snows fringed the rim of the great cliffs above the lake, backed by pale azure skies. Every blade of grass bore its own banner of hoarfrost.

The walk is deceptively easy, as much of it is now 'boardwalked'. By this I mean that the path had been becoming severely eroded, and some combination of agencies – the Wicklow National Park, perhaps, and Coillte, and Mountain Meitheal – came together to lay a pathway over the soft heather and bog, made of old CIE railway sleepers bound together, and laid in pairs end to end, in steps or stretching out over the moors. For once, a decent and environmentally-sound intrusion has been made into the over-pressured Wicklow hills.

But a much bigger problem is in the making, and has been for some time. Andrew and I parked the car at the entrance and carpark of a state forest on the east side of the Sally Gap-Luggala road, a Coillte forest that drapes the southern flanks of Djouce and White Hill. These forests, which litter Wicklow, and are present all over Ireland, are mostly composed of fast-growing lodgepole pine and sitka spruce and other unprepossessing conifers, that can cope with rugged or boggy or otherwise marginal land. They are planted very densely, and in ugly boxed formations that lap up the mountainsides. They are planted so closely, in fact, that in the resultant darkness there is no undergrowth, and much the ground beneath them becomes sterile. Very little wildlife can survive in these forests once they are mature, though some species like the plantations when the trees are young. The pine needles and other detritus from these trees, which are grown mostly for pulp, not for quality timber, cause acidification of the soils, such as they are. When Coillte decides to fell a certain crop of trees, the procedures used are extraordinarily destructive and ugly. 'Clearfelling' involves simply smashing down all the trees in a designated area. They may be felled by axe and chainsaw, or they may be pulled down by some kind of pulley machinery. Either way, the result is a blasted landscape of grey deadwood, resembling some dismal blend of Flanders in 1916 and Tunguska in 1908.

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Another World Is Possible: Learning from Each Other’s Struggles

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MA in COMMUNITY EDUCATION, EQUALITY & SOCIAL ACTIVISM

Applications are invited for the MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at NUI, Maynoothhttp://ceesa-ma.blogspot.ie/

What can we learn from each other’s struggles for equality and social justice – and what do we already know about how to change the world?

This course brings together students who want to learn how to make equality and social justice into realities and more experienced activists in community education and social movements looking for space to reflect on their own work, with a team of staff who are experienced teachers and researchers, community educators and social movement practitioners.

We form a community of practitioners learning from each other’s experiences and struggles to create new kinds of “really useful knowledge” and develop alternatives.

The MA enables students to think about how to build real alternatives to challenge existing structures of oppression and injustice. It is about developing people’s capacity to change the world through community education, grassroots community activism and social movement campaigning.

The women's movement, global justice campaigners, self-organising by travellers and migrant communities, trade unions, GLBTQ campaigning, environmentalism, service user movements, anti-war activism, survivors of institutional abuse, and many other such movements have reshaped our society and put human need on the agenda beside profit and power. This process has not ended.

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Margaret Thatcher’s Death is No Loss to the Greater Part of Humanity

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Margaret Thatcher has left a deep legacy not only for the people of the neighbouring island but also for the Irish people and for the oppressed and suffering peoples of the world.

Thatcher epitomised the arrogance of the long imperialist traditions of the British ruling class. Her policy in regard to the H-block hunger strikes exposed her deep contempt and hatred for those who opposed British imperialist interests. Under her rule the British army gained greater freedom to develop and perpetrate its dirty war in the North of Ireland, when selective assassinations and the management of loyalist paramilitaries became more central to the British war machine.

Thatcher was one in a long line of British rulers who had a deep hatred of working people, such as her great hero, Churchill, another person who carried as a badge of honour his hatred of Ireland and the Irish people’s struggle for independence as well as for the British working class. Thatcher saw workers as mere cannon-fodder in imperialist wars, whether in Ireland or the Malvinas, or simply strategic pawns in her anti-communist crusades, as with “Solidarity” in Poland.

Her name has become a byword for aggression, selfishness, and rampant individualism. She has left a legacy of destroyed lives, shattered communities, rampant militarism and chauvinism and the destruction of what was left of British manufacturing and raised the adoration of the “market” beyond all previous levels.

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Leo Varadkar’s World: Where men are men and women are grateful

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Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar, in a shining example of how to make friends and influence people, excelled himself with his comments indicating that some women may have to give up their jobs in order to avail of the new personal insolvency service. The TD’s comments were picked up in The Irish Examiner;

I know one or two women who probably don’t make very much money at all from working, but they do it to keep their position on the career ladder, if you like, and that is a legitimate thing to do.

“But if you can’t pay your mortgage as a result, or buy your groceries as a result, then that is something that needs to be taken into account in any insolvency arrangement.

“Nobody is asking anybody to give up their jobs. What is going to happen is that people are going to come forward, they are going to say ‘I can’t pay my debts, I can’t pay my mortgage’, and in that case, the insolvency practitioner will go through with them why they can’t pay their bills, and obviously a creditor is not going to agree to a writedown unless that has been gone through and they can work out what is the most they can pay.”

We all know two income families where there are women working, and realistically they might be just about breaking even due to the cost of childcare. The outrageous cost of childcare is due to the fact that the Government have failed utterly in ensuring a state childcare system that is affordable and accessible for women or dare I say it, state-funded through an equitable taxation system and free to avail of.

Parents do not enjoy paying out the price of a mortgage to have someone mind their children, but they do it because they have to. They think “My child will be in school when they’re 4 or 5, this is hard but it’s only for a few years.” Working mothers will often add on a bit to the end of that sentence, “…this is hard but it’s only for a few years, and at least I’ll still have my job at the end.” The implication of Varadkar’s comments are clearly that women in those situations where it may be a short-term cost to work should give up their jobs in order to avail of the personal insolvency arrangements. There is no other way of interpreting it.

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Our ‘Profound Indifference’ Towards Asylum Seekers?

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Enda Kenny in his apology in the Dail called it a ‘profound indifference.’ He said we were able to put the Magdalene women away because ‘for too many years we put away our conscience.’ He was talking of course about something that had been happening since the beginning of this state and which only finally came to an end in 1996. For Enda Kenny though and most of the audience the idea was that this, the horror that was the laundries, the sin that was the incarceration of innocent women, could all be blamed on the past, that what we were really talking about was 1950s Ireland, about a prejudice and snobbery and false piety that belonged to an Ireland that was now gone. Our ‘indifference’ belonged to the past, our buried ‘conscience’ was now unearthed. For ‘our’ indifference and conscience what we really meant was ‘theirs,’ those from the past. Them not us. Not us, at all.

Which is nice and comforting, isn’t it? As if we were confronting something when in essence we were just blaming it on those who went before. Like being absolved but of someone else’s sins. Still, the history of societies looking the other away, claiming not to have known what everyone really knew, has a sinister history, with even the worst state murders of the last century being characterised by that very thing. Thankfully, we are not within that sphere of inhumanity, but do we even want to share any of those social characteristics? Do we want to be another society that turned away, that buried our conscience, that lived by indifference, that ‘didn’t know’? Because we do know and if we don’t talk about it we are indifferent or putting away our conscience or lying.

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A Call to Educate

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The following will focus on the relationship between planned political education and left activism. If there is a justification for this, it lies in the history of the worker’s movement itself. Almost every significant step toward the self-emancipation of the working class has rested on a deep and thoroughgoing emphasis on the educational development of those indispensably involved.

Careful planning and organisation of political education among activists and workers, within and without their respective organisations, is always centrally important. In an attempt to provoke discussion, some questions are raised about the different strategies for the development of educational forms worthy of the movement the present generation of socialist activists hope to build.

The most influential socialists of the 19th and 20th centuries all realised the necessity of ensuring workers take ownership of, and develop, the knowledge necessary for self-emancipation. Certainly Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, along with many other pioneers of the movement, were never prepared to neglect this necessary work, not under threat of exile, not in the midst of revolutionary upheavals, not during imprisonment, conditions of civil war and/or counter-revolutionary witch-hunts. Realising that action has to be theoretically informed, they never stopped studying, analysing and writing, throughout their lives. They have done much to prepare the ground, providing many useful signposts for subsequent generations, yet the necessity for intensive scholarship and focused dissemination of knowledge has not diminished in the slightest.

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