CfP: The 14th AFIS conference. “New Beginnings from a Franco-Irish Perspective”. Technological University Dublin (2-3 September, 2021).

The world has been shaken by the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses were closed, airlines grounded, cities deserted, hospitals overwhelmed, all of which has left people anxious about what the future might hold. Such turmoil should encourage governments to focus on policies that would revolve around concern for the well-being of individuals, heightened awareness of the importance of human rights for all, and genuine solidarity among nations. However, the health crisis has further exacerbated existing social and economic inequalities, both worldwide and within each country, and that in turn has led to renewed issues of political surveillance and control.

Yet in spite of the death of millions of victims, the immeasurable grief of loved ones, the economic meltdown, the uncertainty, there appears to be a natural human inclination to look forward and think about new beginnings. Just as Dr Rieux remarks at the end of Camus’ famous novel The Plague (1947) how the bacillus never disappears completely, that it can lie dormant for years and years, awaiting the moment when it will strike again, so too must the world face up to the fact that we may always have to live with the threat posed by the coronavirus. The ‘new normal’ will in time become normal and people will adapt, as they always do, to what is presented to them. But the danger will not disappear.

The 14th AFIS conference invites papers from academics and early career researchers on the theme of ‘new beginnings’ from a French, Irish or Franco-Irish perspective. Issues that might be explored include a look back at France’s slow emergence from the horrific losses inflicted on its population during the Great War and its desire for a more stable and peaceful relationship with its powerful neighbour and traditional enemy, Germany. Ireland for its part a century ago was coming to the end of the War of Independence that culminated in the signing of a Treaty, which led in turn to more conflict, this time in the form of a bitter Civil War. New beginnings are not always easy; in fact, they rarely are.

Returning to the present situation, papers would also be welcome on the extent to which social and cultural activities (including literature, art and music, but also the Irish pub and French café), human rights, climate change, health (in terms of diet, exercise, wellness), education, politics, economics, might experience new beginnings in France and/or Ireland as the world emerges from an unprecedented crisis and ponders on what may lie in store for humanity. The recently deceased Irish poet Eavan Boland charted many changes in terms of Irish society and women’s place in, or outside history, right up to celebrating the 2018 centenary of women’s suffrage in ‘Our Future Will Become the Past of Other Women’. Her poem ‘Quarantine’, a very apposite title in the current climate, referenced the Great Famine of the 1840s. Another poem finding renewed popularity is Brendan Kennelly’s ‘Begin’, which ends: ‘Though we live in a world that dreams of ending / that always seems about to give in / something that will not acknowledge conclusion / insists that we forever begin’.

So we believe there is much scope and potential for rich exchange in the chosen theme for AFIS 2021. The venue for the conference will most likely be the new East Quad in Grangegorman.

Below are a few suggested panels, but they are in no way prescriptive:

Pondering the past as we look to new beginnings in France and/or Ireland

Human rights in France and /or Ireland: Looking towards a new beginning?

Education, creation and the arts in lockdown

Conspiracy theories, digital distractions and communication in lockdown France and /or Ireland

New beginnings in Irish-German relations

Reevaluating past literary traditions while observing the emergence of the new: Franco-Irish currents

What new beginnings in France and/or Ireland in the wake of COVID-19?

Tackling climate change in France and/or Ireland

Tourism and hospitality in France and/or Ireland: New Beginnings?

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Professor Anne Goarzin (Université Rennes 2)

Professor Brigid Laffan (European University Institute, Florence)

Donal Ryan, novelist and short story writer, will be interviewed and will read from his latest work

Abstracts of approximately 250 words should be submitted to Dr Sarah Balen ( and Dr Eamon Maher ( by the 30 April, 2021. Anyone wishing to participate in the conference will need to be members of AFIS – details are available at

Our hope is to organise a traditional conference with speakers attending in person, but we may also have a facility for some online panels should the pandemic still render this approach necessary.

Registration details and other information will follow in due course.