CFP – NISN 2014, Aalborg University, Denmark

May 7-9, 2014

Ireland and the Popular

 Welcome to the 9th biennial Nordic Irish Studies Network conference, which will be hosted by Aalborg University in Denmark. The theme of the conference is ‘Ireland and the Popular.’ The territory of ‘the popular’ is a contested one, not least in an Irish context. While discourses, ranging from politics to aesthetics, regularly claim to know what is popular and why, there is no consensus as to what defines the popular: is it a function of mass and majority, or is it rather an essentialist category springing from the folk tradition of a given region or site?   This problem of definition and delimitation has etymological roots. Popular literally means ‘of the people’, but what of the Germanic alternative to the Latin root ‘populus’: the folk?   This conflict between imaginings of the popular has been thematized in the British and continental European debate about the culture industry, where mass culture was considered evil (because of its capitalist origins and profit-making function) and a corrupting influence on the authentic culture of ‘the folk’, whether urban working class or rural. High or elite culture on the other hand was traditionally considered as having a civilizing or didactic influence on the people (giving them the possibility of becoming ‘cultured’). We thus have a triangle of cultures battling for the domain of ‘the popular’: ‘folk culture’ claiming the territory of the authentic; ‘mass culture’ claiming pride of place for its dominance in terms of volume; and ‘high culture’ claiming dominance because of its didactic capacity and permanent aesthetic value.

The conference seeks to explore the contested ground of ‘the popular’ in an Irish context: The popular vs. the folk; High art vs. folk art; Mass culture vs. elite culture.

Papers on all manifestations of the popular in Irish culture, literature, arts, society and history are welcome. Phenomena to be explored could include, but are obviously not limited to:

  •  Popular culture – artefacts and ways of life
  • Folk culture, art and music – authenticity and spokesmanship
  • Magic, the mystical, cunning – Irish myths and mythologies
  • Literature and its positionings vis-à-vis the popular and the elite
  • Pop and compositional music – traditions and tensions
  • The visual iconography of the popular (in media, the street, museums)
  • Stereotypes of Irishness in film, narrative and images
  • Attacks on popular culture, culture debates and wars
  • Representations of the popular in literature and film
  • The idea of ‘the people’ in politics and history
  • Populism and politics

Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be sent by email to Bent Sørensen at the following address: The deadline for submission of abstracts is 1 February 2014.