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Vol. 18 No. 1 (2019): Being Human and Transnationalism
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Trinity College Dublin | Postgraduate Review 2019

Patrick McDonagh, Department of History, School of Histories & Humanities

Alexandra Corey, Department of French, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies
Jamie Sugrue, School of Biochemistry and Immunology
Paul-James Cashman-Roberts, School of Law
Rebecca Wynne-Walsh, Department of History, School of Histories & Humanities
Sean Murray, Trinity Centre for High Performance Computing, School of Mathematics
Shubhangi Karmakar, Trinity Translational Medicine Institute, School of Medicine
Sophia White, Loyola Institute

Lorraine McEvoy, Department of History, School of Histories & Humanities

Ariana Malthaner, Department of Irish and Celtic Languages, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies
Tenaya Jorgensen, Department of History, School of Histories & Humanities

Sean Murray |
Shubhangi Karmakar |

Oisín Vince Coulter, President of the Graduate Students’ Union

I am delighted to write this foreword to the 2019 Trinity Postgraduate Review. I do so wearing three hats. First, as the Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Modern History at Trinity; second, as Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, which is home to over 40 early career researchers; and, finally, as Chair of the Irish Research Council, the only funding agency in Ireland that supports excellent researchers across all disciplines and all career stages, including nearly 1400 Government of Ireland scholars. As a research intensive university, and a proud member of the League of European Research Universities (LERU) and the Coimbra Group of Universities, Trinity is, of course, hugely invested in achieving research excellence in all disciplines.

Critical to our vision is the work of our postgraduate students, and, to the extent that publication is the fruit of impactful research, this journal (which of course showcases the work of postgraduate students both from Trinity and from other universities) is a representation of the truly remarkable research that postgraduate students around the world are engaged in.

As part of my roles within Trinity and the Irish Research Council, I supervise and mentor graduate students and through the ‘Love Irish Research’ and others campaigns take every opportunity to celebrate the originality and importance of their research. I am inspired by the passion, breadth, and quality of their research. This journal is, for me, another manifestation – and celebration - of this brilliance. I welcome it with real enthusiasm and recommend it to you without hesitation.

The 2019 Review, focused as it is on the broad themes ‘Being Human’ and ‘Transnationalism’, offers tremendous scope for interesting and innovative analysis of the most pertinent issues that face humanity on a daily basis. The articles contained therein take up the challenge of such a broad theme and cover many disparate areas on diverse topics from melancholy in the early modern period, survival practices in the Soviet Gulag and Chinese Laogai to Akan theological anthropology. All of the authors are to be congratulated for their dedication to their research and the quality of the work that is published in this journal.

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the outstanding work of the editorial board for the review in producing a journal of this quality. More generally, I would like to acknowledge the phenomenal work of Trinity’s Graduate Students Union in working for the welfare of all postgraduate students in Trinity. Global society in 2019 is, I believe, threatened by the proliferation of so-called ‘fake news’ and the undermining of the concept of the ‘expert’.

With the rise of extreme nationalism and populism, democracy as we understand it is in crisis. Within this environment, the mission of universities and researchers to pursue knowledge and truth and to disseminate the results of their pursuits convincingly and fearlessly has never been more important. This journal is true to this mission, and the work of those published here gives me solace and optimism as I look to the future.

Professor Jane Ohlmeyer
Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub and
Chair of the Irish Research Council
April 2019


I am delighted to present the eighteenth volume of the Trinity Postgraduate Review (TPR) after a fascinating year as its Editor-in-Chief. Building on the solid edifice left by my predecessors, the past year has seen exciting developments in the TPR. This is most notable in the significant expansion of submissions from students of other universities which has helped transformed this publication into a truly international postgraduate research journal. It is a pleasure to say that this year’s volume of the journal features stellar articles from students from institutions as diverse as the universities of St Andrews, Geneva and Warwick.

In a departure from previous years, this year saw the first TPR international postgraduate research conference, which was a key part of Trinity Research Week, in late March 2019. As the Research Officer of the Graduate Students’ Union it was my task to organise Research Week and adjacent events, and it was a great privilege being able to combine that with the TPR, creating a common program for the year. The conference was an outstanding success and included a substantial international student cohort travelling from the United Kingdom. In these troubled times of increasing international reclusion a sustained effort is needed to build, cultivate, and maintain transnational networks of researchers. This is of fundamental importance for the circulation and pursuit of knowledge. Borders may divide nations but they do not, and should not, divide scholars. Knowledge is in no way the preserve of one nation alone. Though only modest in our means, it is hoped that the TPR has helped to create a new network of transnational links among a rising generation of scholars.

This year took as its focus the perennial themes of ‘Being Human’ and ‘Transnationalism’. To ask what does it mean to be human is to ask a question with great existentialist import, a serious task which our authors engaged with, with great clarity and dexterity. A brilliant article by Calvin Duffy takes us into the heart of some of the darkest aspects of humanity as he analyses the survival patterns of inmates in the Soviet Gulag and Chinese Laogai. This drive to an understanding of our darkest selves is also seen in Samuel Astorgas’ exploration of the Jewish man and his hand in the context of the Holocaust.

The nature of truth is discussed by Hannah Palmatary who analyses Nietzsche and the manner in which art can provide insight to truth. Michael James Sonne continues the Nietzschean discourse in this journal and questions what Nietzsche’s work offers to an understanding of being human in relation to artificial enhancement. These ideas of bodily adaption are also explored in articles by Grace Murray, who delves into early modern hopes and fears around contemporary automatons, and by Sophie Donnelly who offers a critical examination of proposals to introduce upper age limits for assisted human reproduction services in Ireland. Our final article under this theme is by Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi who provides an impressive discussion of Akan theological anthropology which goes to the very heart of what it means to be human.

We live in a transnational world, regardless of the rhetoric of demagogues, as is amply revealed by the varied backgrounds of our authors. Moreover as our contributors brilliantly show, this is no modern invention but something pervasive of much of human history. In Emily Betz’s stimulating essay she considers the role of transnational medical theories in influencing English notions of melancholy and their eventual self-identification as a melancholic nation during the early modern period. Rebekah Hodgkinson, taking curry as her theme, and Anglo-Indian food culture more broadly, offers an intriguing analysis of Britain’s transnational past. Ralph Moore finishes this year’s volume as he takes us back to antiquity and considers the ethnic categorisations and transmutations of the group who infamously sacked Rome in c.390BC.

I would like to thank all of my committee on the TPR for their tremendous work throughout the year and without whom this publication would not have been possible. The same thanks extends to all our peer reviewers who volunteered many hours to ensuring this journal and the essays featured were of the highest quality. I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Jane Ohlmeyer who generously wrote the foreword for this year’s volume of the journal and who also gave a wonderful lecture during Research Week. I would also like to thank Oisín Vince Coulter and Gogoal Falia, the President and Vice-President respectively of the Graduate Students’ Union for their advice, support, and providing the funding to create and publish this journal. No thanks would be complete without mention of Alex Jones, last year’s Editorin-Chief, and Catherine Bromhead, an Associate Editor last year, who were always available for advice during my year as Editor-in-Chief. Finally, my deepest thanks and utmost appreciation is to Ríona Morris who has been an unfailing source of support, wisdom and patience, and who has spent far too many hours hearing about the TPR.

Patrick McDonagh


Published: 2019-11-24
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