28 Mar

ISA 2016: Illustrating Human Rights in Conflict Zones: La Lucha and the Fight to End Violence Against Women in Mexico

The following is the abstract for the second paper I presented at this year’s Annual International Studies Association Conference:

The issue of human rights is often overlooked in the study of conflict, particularly those relating to individuals who work to defend human rights on a daily basis.  Similarly, certain ‘wars’ are afforded more time and attention than others, with regions that experience high levels of violence against women receiving far less attention.  La Lucha is a graphic novel that tells the story of the struggle for women’s rights in Northern Mexico, where Chihuahua and Juarez have consistently been two of the most dangerous cities in the world for over a decade.

This paper examines the use of the graphic novel form, taking the case of La Lucha, in representing the otherwise invisible work of women human rights defenders who risk their lives to promote justice.  In doing so the paper assesses the ways in which La Lucha seeks to engage storytelling as a means of educating and campaigning for human rights and of countering narratives that seek to harass and defame human rights defenders.  This paper argues that popular culture and storytelling offer important insights into world events and should not be overlooked in international studies.


Key words: human rights, violence against women, graphic novel, counter-narrative, Mexico

28 Mar

ISA 2016: Countering Online Violent Extremism: Revisiting Adorno’s ‘Education After Auschwitz.’

The following is the abstract from the first paper I presented recently at the annual International Studies Association Convention:

That violent organisations can target young people directly via social media platforms to spread extremist messaging is of concern.  Millions of Euros are being pumped into programmes to prevent young people being drawn into extremist activities.  Many of these use social media to counter online extremist material.  An increasing variety of actors are involved in this work, from governments and NGOS to former extremists, social media giants, and private companies.  Despite the significant policy and financial focus, little research has been carried out into such projects. 

A recent example, ‘P2P: Challenging Extremism,’ seeks to engage youth in this digital ‘war.’  Run by private company EdVenture, supported by the State Department, this project seeks to harness the power of millennials by working with university students across the world, and having them become ‘educated influencers.’  This paper considers such a project, drawing on the writings of Adorno regarding education, and suggests that it has serious implications not only in the area of CVE but also with regard to education more generally.

Key words:
social media, extremist messaging, education, mass media, Adorno

23 Nov

Never Lonely in Iran

As per my previous post, the following is an adapted extract from the story I wrote for A Girls Guide to Travelling Alone: Inspiring true tales from solo women travellers.  

Never Lonely in Iran
Always pack a spare top when heading out for the day in Iran. Today’s lesson, I thought, as I danced at the party. I was baked. My heavy beige long sleeved knee length shirt thing and five euro baggy Tesco trousers were not made for an occasion like this one. I looked at the brightly coloured tunics and the elegant dancing of the women around me, a rainbow of discarded headscarves on the rug. I felt decidedly frumpy. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Clothes to wear to a party hadn’t been on the list of items to squeeze into my rucksack.  Not for a solo trip through Iran and Central Asia. Torch – yes, medication – yes, toilet roll – yes. Nothing about packing for a party.

If they could see me now. With better clothes on, of course. They had reacted in pretty much the same way when I told them what I had planned:

‘Iran? Why?’
‘But, Iran? Alone?’
‘Ah jaysis.’ (My dad).

As I danced I wondered how I would be able to describe my experiences in Iran to everyone at home. How to tell them about party I was at. Do it justice. The food, the dancing, the laughing. How to put it into words. Words that wouldn’t sound hollow and meaningless. Words that would bring it as alive as I felt then, being part of that evening.  The way I had felt
so often in Iran. The people were oh so kind. So generous. Really lovely. Fascinating. So many stories. A sound bunch of lads. Great banter. Lots of laughs. The craic was mighty. You just had to be there. I knew that with every attempt at description, a part of it would be lost to me. The magic would be chiselled away.

‘Do Irish men dance like that?’ the woman beside me asked, bringing my mind back to the party.

I watched the men move gracefully and thought about parties at home. I pictured my male friends doing the ‘pointy finger dance,’ the ‘air guitar dance,’ or the ‘lepping about like an eejit dance.’

‘Em. Not really. I don’t think Irish men like dancing,’ I said.

‘Iranian men are emotional,’ she said, laughing. ‘I think that is why they like dancing like this.’

I showed her how Irish men dance. She laughed. I smiled. So what if this moment, gossiping about men with a new friend in Iran, couldn’t be captured. It didn’t matter. The moment was mine.

21 Oct

Championing Comics

Some interesting comments from Dave Gibbons from today’s Guardian, where he discusses his new role as ‘comics laureate’ in the UK:

“[C]omics are a very vibrant art form in their own right … part of the continuum from novels through to movies and computer games.”

“They are very accessible. I think children naturally gravitate to their particular mix of brief words and exciting, interesting pictures. They can do everything from spin yarns of derring do to things which are very educational in the sense of history and science – virtually everything…”

 “The sheer accessibility of the medium, the way in which complex information can be easily absorbed through its combination of words and pictures, actively encourages reading in those intimidated by endless blocks of cold print.”