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2020 Conference
Houston, Texas

April 1-4, 2020

Theme: Borders, Borderlands,
and Bridges


2020 Conference

The Southern Chapter of the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS South) will hold its principal 2020 gathering concurrently with the ACIS national conference, hosted by the William J. Flynn Center for Irish Studies at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. The conference dates are April 1-4, 2020.

 The conference organizers have designated Wednesday, April 1, 2020, for events particularly focused on Southern topics, including our regional business meeting. 

Proposals for Southern-focused papers and panels will be considered for inclusion throughout the conference. However, we hope to highlight this focus on April 1. 

We welcome proposals, for example, that examine the challenges facing Irish Studies Programs in the South; or emphasize research by graduate students based in the South; or trace the history and culture of Irish immigrants in the South; or showcase Irish connections in the work of artists and writers living in the South; or illuminate issues of diversity involving Irish communities in the South. What forms of social difference define and divide communities of Irish descent in our region, and how do those communities interact with other forms of social difference, exclusion, and power in the South?

 The Southern Chapter (ACIS South) particularly encourages graduate students to participate. Each year, the organization offers an award for the Best Debut Presentation by a Graduate Student. The award recognizes a striking and compelling first paper delivered at the conference.

April 1-4, 2020


and Bridges


William J. Flynn
Center for Irish Studies,
University of St. Thomas,
Houston, Texas


J.W. Marriott Hotel by the Galleria,
5150 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77056

Deadline for Proposals:

Friday, November 15, 2019

Proposals reflecting the conference theme — Borders, Borderlands, and Bridges — are particularly welcome. However, other topics will also be considered. Proposals for individual papers and panels should be submitted through the conference’s submissions portal.

Cuirfear fáilte faoi leith roimh pháipéir i nGaeilge, nó faoin teanga féin.

Please note: To submit a conference proposal, you must me a current member of the American Conference for Irish Studies. Joining ACIS takes just a few minutes!

Featured Speakers

Mary Robinson,
Former President of Ireland

Sarah Townsend,
University of New Mexico


Featured Speakers

We are pleased to announce that Mary Robinson, president of Ireland, will be our Keynote Speaker.

In addition, Sarah Townsend of the University of New Mexico Irish Studies Program will present a plenary about race and immigration.


Sarah Townsend

What’s New about the New Irish? Race, Whiteness, and Immigration in Ireland and Irish America

Sarah L. Townsend’s plenary draws upon her new research on racial formation in Ireland and Irish America. Anchored by archival research, her current project investigates the hidden history of transnational white supremacy that undergirds multiculturalism in contemporary Ireland.

Townsend shows how present-day literary and cultural celebrations of the so-called “new Irish” immigrants in Ireland paradoxically derive from a racial vocabulary developed in the nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century U.S. to support Irish immigrants — who were considered only questionably white on arrival — in securing a firm place in the white majority. By tracing the use of the phrase “new Irish” in historical materials and contemporary writing, her research demonstrates how the legacies of this vocabulary continue to shape the way race is understood in Ireland today.

Sarah L. Townsend is a scholar of modern and contemporary Irish fiction and drama, with particular interests in genre, economic development, race, and migration. Her published and forthcoming scholarship appears in New Literary History, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Journal of Modern Literature, and a variety of edited collections. She is currently completing a monograph on the Irish Bildungsdrama, and her next project explores the history of the term “New Irish” in Ireland and the United States.

Townsend is Assistant Professor of English at the University of New Mexico, where she has co-founded an Irish Studies program, and she is spending the 2019-20 academic year as a residential research fellow at the Suzy Newhouse Center for the Humanities at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

Mary Robinson

Former President of Ireland, Chair of The Elders, and UN Special Envoy on Climate Change

One of the world’s most respected advocates for climate justice and Ireland’s first woman President, Mary Robinson leads the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, a center for thought leadership, education, and advocacy for the poor and disempowered in the world that are disproportionately threatened by climate change. 

Robinson has moved audiences around the world with her passionate and hopeful call for all nations to work together to fight for a sustainable future. Her new book, Climate Justice, has received glowing reviews from former world leaders and the environmental and human rights community. 

Barack Obama, awarding Robinson the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, praised her as an “advocate for the forgotten and the ignored,” noting that she has “not only shone a light on human suffering, but illuminated a better future for our world.”

Mary Robinson first rose to international prominence as President of Ireland from 1990-97. She is widely regarded as a groundbreaking and transformational leader who elevated the public role of the Irish presidency, helping to shape modern Ireland in a period of rapid and unprecedented economic growth. 

From 1997-2002, Robinson served as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, also transforming that office through highly visible public advocacy. 

She is a founding member and currently the Chair of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders formed by Nelson Mandela to tackle the world’s most pressing problems. 

Robinson has served as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, sounding the alarm as extreme weather events dramatically affected the world’s most vulnerable populations. She served as Vice President of the Club of Madrid, chair and co-founder of the Council of Women World Leaders, serves on numerous boards including the European Climate Foundation, and chairs the newly formed Center for Sport and Human Rights. 

She was honorary president of Oxfam International from 2002 to 2010 and has chaired numerous bodies, including the GAVI Alliance, which vaccinates children worldwide. 

Since 1998, Robinson has also served as Chancellor of The University of Dublin (Trinity College). A committed European, she has been active in European Community and Irish parliamentary committees. 

In her earlier career, Robinson was a crusading lawyer for women’s and human rights, arguing landmark cases in European and Irish courts. She has taught at Trinity College and Columbia University, served in the Irish Senate for twenty years, and co-founded the Irish Centre for European Law at Trinity College. A graduate of Trinity, King’s Inns Dublin, and Harvard Law School, she holds honorary doctorates from more than 40 of the world’s most elite universities and is the recipient of the Indira Gandhi and Sydney Peace Prizes.

Earning consistent praise as an unforgettable keynote speaker, Robinson brings the thought leadership of a former head of state; a grandmother’s passionately felt concern for the future; and the compelling stories of the thousands she has met traveling the world as a champion for climate justice, human rights, gender equality, and corporate responsibility. Known for touching hearts, expanding mindsets, and sparking meaningful conversation, Mary Robinson frames humanity’s most daunting threat in highly solvable terms, leaving audiences hopeful and inspired to change the course of our planet’s future.