MPhil Student Punita Kapoor from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, came to the University of Limerick under the Faculty of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, International Activity Challenge Fund 2017. Here she writes about her 8 weeks at UL:
To say I had the best of both worlds is what comes to my mind spontaneously when I am asked about my 8 weeks experience in Limerick, Ireland. For a research scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, the academic engagement at University of Limerick, Ireland was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The academic fulfillment was complemented by most wonderful insight into the cultural sphere, traditional music, literary canon, performing and visual arts, and the idyllic landscape of the country, which I was fortunate to experience and enjoy. It was due to the great efforts of Amanda Noonan, UL, International Office, Dr. Ciara Breathnach (Department of History, UL) and Dr. Jyoti Atwal (CHS, JNU) that I had the opportunity to come to Ireland under the Faculty of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, International Activity Challenge Fund 2017. I offer my gratitude to all for providing me with this stirring experience.
After we arrived we eased in to the Irish pace of life. Then my first week was hectic: it started with the most stimulating workshop which included series of talks on Medical and Institutional History in Ireland organized by young Ph.D. research scholars from N.U.I.G and M.I.C. along with a keynote ‘Medicalization and Irish Women in New York and Boston, 1860 – 1920’ by Dr. Ciara Breathnach. Another such fascinating faculty lecture was by Dr. Jyoti Atwal on ‘Margaret Cousins (1878 – 1954): An Irish Woman in the Indian National Movement’.
It was followed by classes that I audited, and concluded with a trip to Dublin. My trip included a visit to an exhibition on ‘Hunger Strike, 1877 – 1981’ at Kilmainham Gaol Museum, Dublin. As part of the Decade of Centenaries for Ireland, the exhibition on hunger strike examined the history of hunger strikes by political prisoners with special focus on the centenary of the death of Thomas Ashe, who believed in action and gave momentum to the Irish freedom struggle. Co-curated by Ciara Breathnach (University of Limerick), Niall Bergin (Kilmainham Gaol Museum), Laura McAtackney (Aarhus) and Ian Miller (Ulster University) the exhibition shows how Hunger strikes are not only strategically linked to Irish political struggle, but also has global importance.
The academic learning was enriched by exchange of ideas and discussions with fellow postgrad students and international students during the course of academic weeks. Sam, Geraldine, Tereža and Danny deserve special mention for their welcome. The auditing of M.A. classes on sources and research methodology, Irish Medical History, Family history and Socio – Cultural history of Ireland not only introduced me to the new approaches of research for my future research but also familiarized me with dynamics and complexities of Irish History allowing me to draw links of connected pasts between the two colonized nations.
The impetus to this whole process of learning was provided by paper presentations on my MPhil dissertation ‘Oriental Exhibitionism, Nation and Gender: Textile Industry In Colonial and Post Colonial North India’ and cultural commemoration helped in getting much fulfilling comments which further assisted in broadening the area of my research.
University of Limerick not only gave me a ground to engage and think but also to learn and explore. Culturally rich, with inquisitive minds around who ventured to debate and create new ideas, UL provided me with academic excellence which was clubbed with transformative student experience. While, the rich resource base at the Glucksman Library acted as a rich retreat for a scholar of social sciences like me, the regular cultural events by the UL international society and other events, helped indulge further into the new cultural society I was introduced too. The National Self portrait collection, is a visual treasure trunk which University possesses is another highlight which reinstates University’s encouragement and appreciation of culture and art.
My 8-week visit was marked by the most pleasing lyrical notes. First I attended an artistically stimulating theatrical musical performance by Jean Mcglynn (Songs in Suits: Great Songs by Great Men). Engagement with musical taste of this uniquely scenic landscape was something I experienced richly. A wander through cities and towns on any evening you can find a ‘trad’ music session (informal gathering of musicians) going on. The performances sing out loud to you, enticing you to join in. The musical pedigree for me did not stop here. The exposure to modern as well as traditional Irish music for me varied across different enjoyable performances as music is spilled across the streets of Limerick, Galway, Dublin and Cork to name a few where young talented singers played diverse kinds of native instruments. A deeper insight into Irish musical legacy was made possible by home bound music which one gets to hear in every household. For me it was result of the homestay with Aelish and Bill. While music sessions with Bill in his little recording studio gave a peek into developments in Irish music industry, attending choir sessions allowed an understanding of religious singing of which Aelish was a part of.
The musical bonanza was further complemented by rich pool of visual wealth that country has to offer. As Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” What better space to appreciate the artists masterpieces than those which adorn the corridors of National Gallery of Ireland, Hugh Lane gallery. For somebody like me who has only read about these great artists and poets such as of Monet, Jack Yeats, John Lavery, William Yeats, Bernard Shaw and many others, to see and admire their works in person was an experience which left me overwhelmed and in greater awe of their works. TULCA visual arts festival, Galway, too was great experience that got me engaged and embrace the contemporary arts culture of Galway and beyond. Visits to Chester Beatty, Irish Museum of Modern Art and Book of Kells, without having the need to say, added all to the learning process I was undertaking.
Thus, it is no surprise that the source of inspiration for these artists is the charming landscape of the country. Breathtaking peninsulas, heritage town like of Adare or traditional village of Cashel, drive through Wild Atlantic Way with the Cliffs of Moher as major highlight of this route, rugged scenic landscape of the Burren, the legacy of victories and plunders of rich nobility which stand still in form of castles of King John’s or Bunratty, prehistoric archeological sites like Grange Stone Circle at Lough Gur all add to the charm.
Where every stone has a story to tell, and every street has a music to engage you with, it all created memorable experiences I will treasure for life and tales I will share widely. Where people’s warmth covers up for the days without sun and where there are no strangers here, but only friends you are yet to make, it was an experience of a lifetime to cherish. And for this, I would again like to extend my gratitude, to Amanda Noonan, Dr. Atwal and Dr. Breathnach for providing me with this most wonderful opportunity.