The Irish-Scottish Academic Initiative (ISAI) was set up in 1995 to be a formal link between three universities in Scotland and Ireland involving three subject areas: history, Celtic studies, and literatures in the English language. The initial institutional members -the University of Aberdeen, the University of Strathclyde, and Trinity College Dublin -were joined in 1999 by Queen's University, Belfast, and in 2002 by the University of Edinburgh.
Research partnerships and projects
Ireland and Scotland over the centuries have had a close relationship. Though that relationship has frequently been troubled, it has resulted in shared or parallel experiences which more than ever merit study. At a time when relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom seem ready to enter a new phase, and when the connections between the different parts of the United Kingdom are being reassessed, it is especially valuable to foster strong academic links between Scotland and Ireland.
History, Language and Literature lie at the heart of the two nations' relationship. Research in these disciplines serves both to highlight common problems - the need to preserve or construct an identity in the shadow of a powerful neighbouring culture for example - and differences between the two countries, whether intrinsic or attributable to uneven development of the economics of land usage, industrialisation, language, literary tradition or national sovereignty. The Initiative develops that potential into an internationally-recognised productive understanding of the past, present and future relations of Ireland and Scotland, within these islands, Europe, and the world.
Research students of the highest calibre from Britain, Ireland, Europe and North America have been attracted to this initiative and look to the emergence of the critical mass of key researchers (postgraduate, postdoctoral and current staff). Indeed, each discipline has already outlined joint research projects intended to develop (partly through staff exchange) innovative and important publication. ISAI also intends by means of public lectures, seminars, symposia and cultural events to disseminate this research to the widest possible public.
Aims of the Irish-Scottish Academic Initiative
The aim of ISAI is to promote research and scholarship in the fields of Irish and Scottish culture. In particular, it seeks to develop research in certain key areas; Irish and Scottish history; Irish literature in English and Scottish literature; and Irish and Scots Gaelic language and literature.
Distinctive aims of the Initiative are:
» A collaborative, interdisciplinary approach, which pools the resources and expertise available in the relevant departments of the four universities: Trinity College, Dublin; Queen's University, Belfast; the University of Aberdeen; and the University of Strathclyde.
» Academic exchanges, involving members of staff, postgraduate students and undergraduates in all four universities.
» Joint research projects, rendered possible by the critical mass of key researchers delivered by the Initiative.
» Enhanced supervision of research students, who have the opportunity to access the research resources and research cultures of four universities instead of one.
» Undergraduate exchanges, to encourage 'East-West' contacts in the younger generation.
» Public lectures, seminars, symposia and cultural events to reach out to the wider public in both Ireland and Britain.
ISAI holds a biannual conference, open to the public, the proceedings of which have been published. These collections include "Celebrating Columba: Colm Cille a cheiliuradh: lrish-Scottish connections, 597- 1997", drawing on the first ISAI conference held at the University of Strathclyde in 19971 Ireland and Scotland: "Nation, Region, Identity", which records the event of the 2000 conference at Trinity College Dublin, and a forthcoming volume in the established series "Belfast Studies in Language, Culture and Politics" that documents proceedings at the conference held in Queen's University Belfast in September of this year under the title Ireland (Ulster)/ Scotland.
The Department of Celtic at Aberdeen and the School of Irish and Celtic Languages at Trinity have held a highly successful joint seminar series while reciprocal staff and graduate student visits between the partner institutions are now established practice. At the Strathclyde University, Glasgow, recent research topics relevant to Scots-Irish Studies include W.B. Yeats, Millenarianism, James Macpherson, the image of the Irish in Scotland, Seamus Heaney, Contemporary Irish Poetry and many others: around half of Strathclyde University's 29 research students are working on Scottish or Irish topics.
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