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Research in Gender, Culture & Society @UL

Research in Gender, Culture & Society @UL is organised under two research clusters that coincide with Gender ARC research clusters. Gender ARC is the Advanced Research Consortium on Gender, Culture and the Knowledge Society which includes more than seventy academics at the University of Limerick and the National University of Ireland Galway researching gender-related topics. (See: The research clusters include team projects and individual research projects.

This cluster includes three thematic groups:

1.1. Gender, Education and the Knowledge Society

This theme explores gendered inequalities in education and the implications for the development of dynamic, knowledge-based societies in different locations and contexts. Current areas of active research include: women’s education attainment in rural areas; masculinities and schooling; gender in compulsory and post-compulsory education; and widening participation in higher education.


(1.1.1) Boys, Masculinities, Men Teachers, and Mentorship Project
Dr. Orla McCormack, School of Education, University of Limerick with Dr. Kevin Davison, School of Education, NUI Galway
This research investigates the public concern regarding the need for role models for young men arising out of recent scholarship about boys and academic underachievement. It critically examines from the perspective of parents, teachers, and students, mentorship needs and models.

(1.1.2) Female Empowerment in Science and Technology Academia (FESTA) (1 February 2012-31 Jan 2017). European Commission – Framework Programme 7
Prof. Pat O’Connor, Department of Sociology, UL
Co-Investigators: Dr Ita Richardson (Science and Engineering); Tommy Foy (Director, Human Resources); Research Fellow (Dr Clare O’Hagan)
External Partners: Uppsala University, Sweden; University of Southern Denmark; Aachen University, Germany; Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Trento, Italy; Istanbul Teknik Universitesi, Turkey

The aim of this project is to find ways for European universities to retain and fully employ the competencies and capacities of the whole research force, regardless of gender.

FESTA is concerned with:

implementing changes in the working environment of academic researchers
encouraging female researchers in science and technology to stay and make a career in the academy
to remove some of the hurdles which make it more difficult for them than for their male peers to reach their professional goals.

The project concentrates on the environment of researchers in the lower academic levels, that is, everyday life at departments where research is done. Gender bias in research funding is certainly a major problem, but daily interactions and daily decisions on a departmental level determine to a high degree, which researchers will apply for and get research grants. The project will improve the working conditions also of those women who never come up to the highest levels of the hierarchy, by enhancing work environments where inspiration and creativity are not impeded by chilly climate, overt or subtle harassment or other forms of inequality between different groups. One consequence of the approach is that it will benefit different kinds of women, with different backgrounds and ambitions. Another consequence is that the project will improve the working environments of other disadvantaged groups and thus increase the diversity in the research force in general. The project works on the area of natural science and technology, because that is where the numerical balance is most skewed. However, both scientific environments with extremely few women and environments with a much more balanced gender mix are included. In contrast to many other gender equality projects, FESTA acknowledges the existence of resistance of different kinds to gender equality measures from the beginning, and will put considerable effort to finding strategic and creative ways of counteracting it.

2. Gender, Law, Equality and Rights

This theme centres on the intersection of law, gender, equality and public policy with a focus on substantive equality for both genders and ensuring that legal norms reflect and implement equality concerns. Particular research themes focus on gender and the family; the labour market and socio-economic rights; public discourse, political rights and civil society; aspects of European and international gender equality law and policy; and gender and the life cycle. A primary concern of the theme is civic engagement, including contributions to policy making at national level; extensive engagement with NGOs and third sector organisations; and encouraging women’s participation in the public process.

3. Gender, Work and New Economies

This theme focuses on understanding the gender dimensions of the emerging economic landscape where innovation, ‘ideas’ and knowledge are to the fore. Research in this area addresses topics such as the interrelationship between gender equality and dynamics of economic growth; the gendered implications of new contractual forms of engagement such as teleworking, flexitime and technologically mediated work; and the underlying dynamic of care work and the changing nature of paid work.

Project: The Nomadic Work/Life in the Knowledge Economy
Dr Breda Gray, Department of Sociology, Gender, Culture & Society @UL programmes.
Dr. Luigina Ciolfi, Interaction Design Centre, CSIS
This project is a joint project between the Departments of Sociology and Computer Science and Information Systems (CSIS) at UL.

As the Irish economy is further integrated in the global knowledge economy, this project is investigating new forms of work and professional practice in high-tech, academic research and creative industries. As the knowledge economy is marked by intense flows of capital, goods, people and ideas, mobility becomes a critical feature of contemporary life for individuals, organisations and nations, not only internationally but also at personal, local and regional levels. This project is investigating the challenges and opportunities posed by knowledge/professional mobility, as the country seeks to reposition itself in a ‘post Celtic Tiger’ phase and specifically addresses the question of how mobile work affects work and non-work activities and the gendered implications across the ICT, new creative and academic areas of work. (See:

This cluster includes three thematic groups:

2.1: Gender, Nation, Text

This theme brings together established strengths in literary and cultural studies, languages, linguistics, sociology and women’s studies. This cross-fertilization of research activities results in a heightened understanding of how gender is constructed, performed, challenged and renewed in different texts and contexts in the language of everyday exchange, in creative industries (literature, film, visual arts), in the intellectual arena (cultural criticism, philosophy, psychoanalysis) and in public discourse (media, politics, law and governance).

2.2: Women, War and Letters, 1880-1920
Project: Women, War and Letters, 1880-1920
Prof. Margaret Mills Harper, English UL
Co-investigators: Dr Tina O’Toole, English UL
Dr Murieann Ó Cinnéide (NUIG)

Conceptions of national identity are gendered in Ireland, as in other national contexts, and to define oneself as a patriot was to be gendered in a particular way. In Ireland, to engage with national politics and national conflicts in the period between the Land War and Partition was to find oneself grappling with gendered norms and expectations, through which distinctive modes of ‘patriotic action’ could be validated or naturalised, but also re-interpreted or condemned. At the same time, in an international context, imperial and colonial conflicts of the late nineteenth-century opened up new conceptions of space and national identity, while in the early twentieth century, the First World War produced a sustained literary re-evaluation of cultures of militarisms and masculinity. These political events were, however, taking place alongside a series of other conflicts, conflicts centred around disruptions of norms of gendered behaviour and class alignments, as well as disruptions of literary norms with the rise of Modernism. The aim of this research project is to interrogate the literary tropes and political constructions through which women’s writing conceptualises conflict, and the processes through which narratives of identity – gender, national, local, literary – are constructed, de-constructed and rewritten as counter-narratives.

2.3: Gender and the Public Sphere

Research within this thematic area addresses the nexus of gender, culture, identity, politics and the public sphere. In particular, it brings a critical gender lens to historical understanding and to contemporary analyses of migration, multiculture, nationalisms, and religious subjectivities in a context of globalisation. Work in this theme also seeks to develop nuanced gender analyses of the changing scope of religious authority in the modern multicultural and democratic state.

Project: The Irish Catholic Church and the Politics of Migration (2008-13; IRCHSS 2008-2010)
Dr Breda Gray, Department of Sociology, Gender, Culture & Society@UL programmes
Dr Ria O’Sullivan Lago, Department of Sociology, UL

This project aims to critically examine the role of the Irish Catholic Church as a key transnational actor in migration politics (emigrant and immigrant) over the past 15 years. This involves investigating the cultural role of the church in reproducing particular social norms and values surrounding migration, its counter-cultural potential via the civil society activities of some religious members, and its transnational functioning in transferring religious and social capital across borders.

The second phase of the project involves mapping the respective roles of the Catholic Church in Ireland, philanthropic foundation funders and pro-migrant NGOs as well as the state in shaping the project of migrant integration in Ireland. (See