Michele Holmgren, President, Canadian Association for Irish Studies
After completing a Master’s degree in Irish Writing at the Queen’s University of Belfast, Dr. Michele Holmgren became interested in the links between Canadian and Irish literary culture. She advanced this by focusing her PhD at the University of Western Ontario on the works of Irish emigrant writers in Canada. While at Western, she joined the Canadian Association for Irish Studies. In 2010, she was elected to its executive and in 2012 became its President.
The Canadian Association for Irish Studies has been promoting Irish Studies in Canada since the early 1970s. It encourages research and interest in all aspects of Irish culture, including literature, music, film, art, design, history, social studies, with a focus on the culture and history of Irish emigration and the founding of Irish communities in Canada. While primarily an academic society, its members include community activists, artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, independent scholars and historians, as well as people with family ties to Ireland or an appreciation or curiosity about its culture. It has members at universities throughout Canada as well as in the U.S., Northern Ireland, Ireland, and Europe.
CAIS regards students as the future of Irish studies, and supports undergraduate and graduate study and research in various ways, such as encouraging students to present papers or posters at conferences, offering workshops on presenting research, as well as through the Joseph McGann memorial prize for the best student paper given at a conference. CAIS works closely with Irish studies programs throughout Canada, including St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, Concordia, St. Mary’s University in Halifax, and Memorial University.
CAIS publicizes the work done by Irish studies scholars through The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, which “encourages a variety of critical and methodological perspectives and welcomes in particular multi- and interdisciplinary approaches as well as explorations of visual, material, and spatial culture” (irishstudies.ca), the CAIS newsletter, and the CAIS website. CAIS also recently launched a Facebook page (CanadianAssociationOfIrishStudies). CAIS scholars meet once a year at a university or conference venue in Canada, not only to share research through paper presentations, but also to celebrate Irish culture through keynotes, concerts, poetry readings, plays and film showings in a “spirit of inquiry and conviviality,” the latter perhaps best demonstrated through the music and poetry sessions that follow the banquet, at which spontaneous audience participation is a given. This year’s conference was a special joint collaboration with the American Conference of Irish Studies and University College Dublin; next year it will take place in Dalhousie University, Halifax, and at the Banff Centre in 2016.