Staging the Incarcerated Female Body: Records and Representations

Feminist Storytelling Network, NUI Galway

Thursday 19 March 2020

The Mick Lally Theatre, Druid

Sponsored by: NUI Galway College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies Research Support Scheme, Drama and Theatre Studies, Gender ARC

Registration: Tickets (free) available on Eventbrite

For queries, please email PI Dr Miriam Haughton

For information on upcoming or past FSN events, please check their website.



This symposium examines the intersections across official records and cultural representations regarding women’s experience in modern Ireland and Northern Ireland. In recent decades, urgent histories written by scholars and activists have shed new insights into the systemic practices of incarcerating ‘deviant’ or ‘Othered’ women, the threats faced by women due to the legal dominion that prescribes female embodiment, the trafficking and illegal adoption of children, and, the significance of centring these experiences as part of modern discourse and consciousness. Decades of historical enquiry, performance, poetry, literature, visual and fine art, documentary and recorded media capture both testimonial accounts and creative response. In this way, they act as another type of canon, one that explores the darker moments of Irish life, where women’s experience – physically, emotionally, sexually, culturally – was oppressed, threatened and violated, in explicit and insidious ways

Areas of enquiry will include, but are not limited to, institutionalisation in Magdalen Laundries, Mother and Baby Homes, psychiatric institutions and prisons, and the threats faced by those engaging in sex work or termination of pregnancies. However, the interpretation of ‘incarceration’ will also extend to instances of limiting, censoring and suppressing histories, ideologies and experiences. Throughout the symposium, students will deliver intermittent performance art encounters that become embedded into the event, contributing to and reflecting the dialogue.


10am: Registration

Beginning of performance art encounters throughout the theatre

10.15: Opening Remarks

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President, NUI Galway

Dr Miriam Haughton, Drama and Theatre Studies, NUI Galway

10.45 – 11.30: The Tuam Oral Histories Project

Dr Sarah-Anne Buckley and Dr John Cunningham, History, NUI Galway

11.30 – 12.15: Women and Illegal Adoption

Conall Ó Fátharta, Journalist, Irish Examiner

12.15 – 1.00: Archiving institutionalisation: Legacies and Resonances

Dr Barry Houlihan, Archivist, NUI Galway

1.00 – 2.00: Lunch (provided)

Performance encounters ongoing

2.00 – 2.45: Performing Women’s ‘Deviant’ Bodies

Dr Áine Phillips, Lecturer and Performance Artist (Burren College of Art)

2.45 – 3.15: Writing Women’s Internal Landscapes

Elaine Feeney, Poet and Novelist

3.15 – 4.00: Bodies of Evidence: Reading Mad Flesh

Dr Anna Harpin (Warwick)

4.00 – 4.30: Concluding remarks

Recommended Reading and Viewing

Lee Daniels (dir), Precious, Lionsgate, 2009

Caelainn Hogan, Republic of Shame, Penguin, 2019

Conall Ó Fátharta, ‘State’s Reaction is to Deny, Delay and to Buy Silence’, The Irish Examiner

Catherine Corless, ‘The Home’, Journal of the Old Tuam Society, 2012. (A copy of this can be emailed in advance to all registered attendees)

Elaine Feeney, ‘History Lesson’ in Rise, Salmon Poetry, 2017.

Kara Fox, ‘For decades, Ireland’s mother and baby homes were shrouded in secrecy.CNN, 9 September 2019.