Dr Sinéad Moynihan

Research interests

My research interests cluster around American, Irish and Transatlantic Literature and Culture, particularly in relation to questions of migration, displacement and diaspora.  My Ph.D., on narratives of racial and gender passing, was grounded in critical race theory and was committed to elucidating the ongoing importance of questioning whiteness as an identity category that passes as invisible and non-raced.  A monograph based on my Ph.D., Passing into the Present: Contemporary American Fiction of Racial and Gender Passing, was published in 2010. 

Although I was concerned with race in an American, particularly African American, context at that point in my early career (2003-2006), I could not ignore contemporaneous developments in my home country, Ireland, in which the attractions of the Celtic Tiger economy meant that demographics were rapidly changing and the country was incorporating relatively large numbers of non-white immigrants. Suddenly, certain tenacious historical myths regarding Irish solidarity with other oppressed groups (Irish Americans siding with Mexicans in the Mexican American War of 1848; the Irish welcome received by Frederick Douglass on his visit to Ireland in the 1840s; the disproportionate Irish donations to Ethiopian Famine Relief in the 1980s) would be tested to their limit. In my second book, therefore, I was interested in the relationship between Irishness and whiteness in a historical and contemporary context and, particularly, in how questions of whiteness were being negotiated in a suddenly multicultural Ireland.

In 2007, I was awarded an Early Career Fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust which enabled me to research and write this project: “Other People’s Diasporas”: Negotiating Race in Contemporary Irish and Irish-American Culture, which was published by Syracuse University Press in 2013.  Using and extending my expertise in critical race studies, the premise of the book is that (re)imagining Irish diasporic experience in the United States in various ways – particularly as this relates to Irish interactions with African Americans – has, in the last decade, become absolutely central to representations of contemporary multicultural Ireland. 

My current research reflects my ongoing interests in both African American and Irish literatures, though I have moved towards questions of rewriting, adaptation, the afterlives of canonical texts and their transatlantic circulation.  I am currently working on two projects: the first is on African American rewritings of texts by canonical white American writers; the second, a study of the Returned Yank figure in Irish and Irish-American culture, 1952 to present.