’Sociology from the Age of Aquarius to the Age of Austerity*’.
SAI Editorial by Dr. Liam Leonard, President of the Sociology Association of Ireland.
(*Dedicated to Donal Igoe of UCG/NUIG, who retires this semester after a longstanding contribution to Irish sociology, and as a founder member of the SAI, and to our outgoing SAI President Ciaran McCullagh).
Founded 40 years ago in 1973, the SAI represents a discipline that has often been marginalised in Irish academics and society. Without doubt, this is due to the natural prejudices which formulate Irish life; preferences for ’professional’ disciplines such as medicine, law and even psychology were always a feature of Irish society, while the recent surge toward promoting economists as experts despite the downturn was recently highlighted by Kieran Allen.
In the past, Irish sociology was divided between clerical studies on Catholic teaching and rural sociology, itself devised by outsiders such as Arsenbeg and Kimball ’looking in’ to a rural and socially backward Irish society. However, by the 1980s and 1990s, studies on Irish emigrants formed a part of the sociology of new communities in the UK by sociologists such as Mary Hickman. The ’Troubles’ in Northern Ireland were a focus for sociologists North and South.
Within the Irish context, a contemporary extension of Aresnburg and Kimball’s rural sociology was continued by Curtin, Varley and Hilary Tovey. Breen, Hannan, Rottman and Whelan examined socio-economics and class. Drudy and Lynch outlined changes in Irish education. From the frontline of services, Social Care, Social Work and Criminology now provide the basis for applied sociological training across Ireland, representing a much needed professional element to the discipline.
During the 1990s, Michéal MacGréil and Ronit Lentin went on to documented the growing issue of racism in Ireland and against the Irish abroad. Tom Inglis detailed the dichotomous worlds of sexuality and religion. Mary Corcoran has examined Irish community as at many levels while Pat O’Connor, Linda Connolly and Anne Byrne have detailed the history of the Irish Women’s Movement, while more recently the emergence of new forms of social activism has been documented by sociologists such as Kieran Allen, Kieran Keohane, Carmen Kuhling, Mark Garavan, Laurence Cox, Paul Ryan and Liam Leonard.
Niamh Hourigan’s study on Understanding Limerick represented a landmark in Irish sociological inquiry, revisiting the concept of ’giving voice’ to the voiceless, while a number of Irish and Greek sociologists examined the problems for the Eurozone in Leonard and Boetetzagias’s edited collection on ’the Crisis of the Peripheries’ in both countries. In some ways, this study reflected the comparative approach established twenty years previously in Clancy et al’s Ireland and Poland: Comparative Perspectives.
Throughout this time, a series of key publications began to map the ground for students of Irish sociology. Studies such as Whose Law and Order, Ireland from Below, A Sociology of Ireland, Ireland Unbound, Contemporary Ireland, Cosmopolitan Ireland and so on have all presented key sociological perspectives at interesting junctures in Irish society. The Irish journal of Sociology has also gone from strength to strength as a national and international sociological journal in recent years.
As the Sociology Association of Ireland reaches its 40th Anniversary, we can reflect on the fact that a sociologist is now President of Ireland, with Michael D. Higgins becoming the 9th President of the Republic. Without doubt, both the nation and the discipline of sociology face increasing challenges in the age of austerity.
As newly elect President of the SAI, I invite you to reinvigorate sociology in Ireland, by joining or re-joining the SAI in our 40th year. It is in academic terms the discipline of the marginal and the voice of the voiceless, and as such retains the potential to be a powerful voice for social justice and change in Irish society.
Liam Leonard, firstname.lastname@example.org
President of the Sociology Association of Ireland
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