28 Feb

Arriving in New Orleans

‘Y’all mind if I vape up here?’ the woman at the front of the bus hollered back at us.

The three of us left on the airport shuttle glanced at each other and mumbled something. I for one was simply too tired to care what she did. Tired and cold. It was raining.  A lot. I had been sitting beside that same woman on the flight into Louis Armstrong airport. She had warned me about the weather, explaining that that day’s ‘Fat Monday’ events had started early in an attempt to avoid the worst of it. She was right.

‘We’re arriving into some weather here, folks.’ The pilot as we came into land. I looked out at the slick runway, planes and airport buildings reflected in its shiny surface.

The woman at the front of the bus vaped, her legs crossed and resting on the seat in front. She continued her phone conversation, interrupting the driver every few minutes: ‘where we at?’, keeping her phone buddy up to date with precise updates of our slow progress through the aftermath of the day’s parades. She provided a running commentary of our trip from the airport to the guesthouse, with the promise she would be there soon to enjoy some hurricane cocktails.

The two men from Boston, who arrived preloaded with beer and beads around their necks, ready to party had also been keen to track progress to their hotel. While ‘cheering on the blue dot’ on their Google map they discussed their plans with the now vaping lady. ‘Oh my gawd. We’re having shots as soon as we get to wherever we getting to,’ said one of them.

‘They should serve alcohol cocktails through a bus straw from the sky,’ said his buddy.

‘I hope they’re having fun,’ I said, as I layered up in my pajamas and hoodie. Even the guesthouse was cold. I wondered what they were up to, feeling a little defeated. There was a time I would have arrived into a new city and headed straight out for cocktails. We wondered if we were the only ones in New Orleans not out celebrating. ‘Manana,’ I said as I curled up, secretly enjoying the new found wisdom that my mother assured me would come with age. And which lasted until exactly 3 o’clock the next day, Fat Tuesday, when we celebrated Mardi Gras in New Orleans with far too many hurricane cocktails.

26 Feb

ISA 2015: Animating Anti Extremism

Last week I presented a paper at the International Studies Association’s 56th Annual Convention.  The event took place in New Orleans from 18-21 February, tying in nicely with Mardi Gras.

I presented a paper ‘Animating Anti Extremism’ as part of the panel: Aesthetic Visions of International Relations – Comics and the Comic.  The panel included papers on comics and geopolitics in the case of the Cheonan sinking (by David Shim); editorial cartoons in response to 9/11 (by David Mutimer); the link between cartoons and international relations, with the role of cartoons in South Africa discussed (by Peter Vale); and cartooning the Holocaust (by Alister Wedderburn).

The panel offered an interesting insight into various roles that cartoons, comics and animation can and do play in international relations.

Here is the abstract for my paper:

Comics, graphic novels and animation have become increasingly popular ways of depicting and disseminating interpretations of political violence, yet remain overlooked in international studies. Changes in cultural production have resulted in a shift of emphasis from text to the rising importance of images, while the visuality of terrorism underscores the important role of visual media in representing and interpreting political violence acts. The popularity and the increasingly didactic aim of many works is being recognised within a key policy area – Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). Counter-narrative is a major preoccupation within CVE, with billions of Euro earmarked for projects in the EU alone, coming as a direct response to the spread of jihadi narratives in different formats, including graphic imagery-based content. Taking the example of Abdullah- X, a series of animated shorts developed specifically with CVE aims, this paper explores the use of this form within a CVE framework. By analysing the work, investigating the context of its creation and locating it within the broader spectrum of comics/animations that have dealt with such issues, this paper investigates the ways in which this form is being used in the area of CVE.

07 Feb

Theatre of War – Creating Rights: Tread Lightly for You Tread on My Realities

Here’s a link to a piece I wrote with Dr Andrea Breslin for ‘Creating Rights.’

A Theatre of War – Setting the Stage for a Critical Reflection on human Rights Violations in Armed Conflict.

Inspired by the recent Theatre of War Symposium at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, the piece explores the theatre as a space to critically reflect on human rights violations in armed conflict.