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Research Profile: Dr Aileen Dillane 

A Dillane pic

Dr Aileen Dillane, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance 

I’m an ethnomusicologist and musician with research interests in local/global Irish musics; musical migrations and diasporas; protest musics; and popular culture, heritage, and soundscapes .  I lecture on many different aspects of music and culture at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, where I also course direct the MA in Irish Music Studies, specialising in the traditional, folk, and vernacular, and popular musics of multi-cultural Ireland and the Irish diaspora. My teaching is research-led so I try to involve my students with projects I’m working on where possible.

You can see me in a ULTalk here:

I do quite a lot of editing and I’m currently the deputy editor of Ethnomusicology Ireland and co-founded/co-direct the Popular Music, Popular Culture and the Power, Discourse and Society research clusters at UL, both of which have associated book series with Rowman & Littlefield:

Recent publications include the co-edited volume Songs of Social Protest: International Perspectives (Sept 2018) and Heart and Soul: Critical Essays on Joy Division (Oct 2018). I’m especially proud of the former as it brings together different genres of music from different eras and socio-political contexts in one volume, written by a diverse set of authors, at a time when the need to critique and to protest has become very important. The critical role played by singers and songs in protest movements and as individual or group interventions cannot be underestimated.

I’m particularly passionate about Irish music and I’m currently completing a monograph on Irish-American music based on historical and contemporary case studies from Chicago, expanding upon original doctoral research at the University of Chicago where I was a Fulbright scholar and Century Fellow.

IWD 2019

I’ve done a lot of new research on this topic over the past few years, especially when I was an invited professor at the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at Notre Dame for Fall 2017 semester.  Not only did I get the chance to study the book collection of Chicago’s famous Irish music collector, Francis O’Neill, in the Hesburgh Special Collections at Notre Dame, but I also had the opportunity to test ideas and develop materials when I taught an undergraduate class on Irish Music in North America. At the core of the book is a critique of essentialism and exceptionalism that are often a facet of Irish identity discourse in the USA, so I endeavour to unpack the work of nostalgia in Irish music reception history as well as interrogate racialized dimensions of Irish performances (including blackface).

At the core of all of my work is interrogating why people make music, why that should matter (and to whom), and how that is tied to issues of identity and (mis)representation.

While my research has always dealt with the power dynamics in such representations, over the past number of years I’ve become more aware of the importance of writing about women and minorities. I’m giving a plenary at the American Conference for Irish Studies in Boston later this month, talking about the powerful critique found in the songs of a famous female Irish popular music artist which will be published next year in a new collection on Popular Music Studies in Ireland.

Other forthcoming publications include a co-authored chapter on the importance of ‘Quareness’ in engaging in Irish Traditional music and dance research with LGBTQAI+ communities, which will feature in Queering the Field: Sounding out Ethnomusicology (OUP 2019). My work on the applied project, LimerickSoundscapes will feature in Transforming Ethnomusicology (OUP 2020) in a chapter co-authored with my MIC colleague Tony Langlois.  Both of these ethnomusicology volumes are edited by key figures in the discipline so I’m excited to see Irish-focussed topics represented.

Most recently, I was part of a five-person international team of researchers that was awarded funding for a three-year, European-funded HERA project entitled ‘FestiVersities: European Music Festivals, Public Spaces and Diversity‘ which will be featured on a forthcoming UL research podcast.  It’s a project that brings all my interests together in terms of performance, music-making and meaning, diversity and minority representation, etc, and should ideally inform best practice when it comes to staging all aspects of music festivals in Europe where the need to tackle social and cultural inclusion in public performance and consumption spaces is crucial.

Music-making is very important to me. I play classical, pop and trad, and regularly perform flute and piano with the All-Ireland winning Templeglantine Ceilí Band. I also like to sing and have been members of a number of different choirs and music ensembles.

My greatest inspiration is my mother, Maureen, who is an extraordinary human being and someone who always encouraged me to follow my own path with intellectual curiosity, generosity, and integrity.  So a shout out to her for the day that is in it.

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