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Profile: Prof. Maura Adshead

Prof. Maura Adshead is an Associate Professor in the Department of Politics & Public Administration. In 2016 she became the Engaged Scholarship Advocate for UL EngageView Maura’s full profile here.

“My background is European politics. I enrolled at the NIHE to do a European studies degree and was amongst the first year of graduates from UL. My degree option, which doesn’t exist anymore, was public affairs – a mixture of comparative politics and economics with German language. I was probably among the last generation to take a Research MA, in the days before taught MAs existed, and I went on to study for a PhD at the University of Liverpool. In between, I worked in NUI Galway, UCD, the University of Essex and the University of Dundee, before coming full circle to work in UL.

“I’ve written, co-written and co-edited five books with Ashgate, Routledge, Palgrave and MUP, all concerning aspects of Irish politics and public policy. I think all research is important and I don’t rate mine any higher than anyone else’s, but I do like the perspective on life that you get when you think like a political scientist – it’s somewhere between cynical, realistic and pragmatic and logical, which is pretty much how I am. Where do I get my interest in politics from? I grew up in as an Irish Catholic in Britain during the 1980s – the winter of discontent, the hunger strikes, petty racism, Mrs Thatcher, the Falklands and the IRA bombs in Britain all left their mark. Politics is what makes us civilised. Politics can make life better. Political science is a force for good!

“At the moment I’m distracted between different areas of work: some to do with an Irish Aid project, understanding how we might conceptualize social capital in developing countries; some concerned with the rolling out of ethnic identifiers in health care in Ireland; some to do with immigrant experiences in Ireland and how Irishness is understood; and some to do with promoting engaged scholarship and collaborative research on the island of Ireland. More recently I’m involved in a number of Irish election projects in the department of politics and public administration, in between times professionally ‘giving out’ about politics and policy more generally in a variety of mediums.

“Being a female professional in a publicly regulated institution, stuffed with over-educated and for the most part politically correct men is certainly not the worst place for a woman to work. Nevertheless, most forms of casual discrimination are still represented in the Ivory tower. But the political scientist in me would be the first to point out that there are more bases to discriminate on than simple gender. My job is to make you see them all – and then encourage you to do something positive to change. The best description of politics I heard was from a former graduate student in our department. He said: “there are two types of people in the world, those who accept the world the way it is, and those who do not – they’re the people who do politics”. I couldn’t put it better myself.”

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