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Current Seminar Series

Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland (CHOMI) Seminar Programme


Our hybrid seminars will run between 4 and 5pm Dublin time. The in-person presentations will take place in room K114 (Newman Building, UCD) and be live-streamed via zoom (registration links below). 

Autumn Term 2023


‘He’s after OD’n:’ Using Coroner’s Reports to Map Dublin’s Drug Scene, 1971-83

Oisín Wall (University College Cork)

Content note: death, suicide, drug-use, institutional violence

Abstract: By 1983 Dublin could confidently refer to itself as the ‘heroin capital of Europe.’ 1 However, a decade and a half earlier, at the end of the 1960s, there was no evidence of a ‘hard drug culture’ anywhere in the country. This paper will explore the initial formation of that culture in the early-1970s, and its transformation in the early-1980s. It will probe into who was using drugs, which drugs they used, how and where did they used them, and what their everyday lives were like. Due to the illicit and ephemeral nature of drug scenes, source material about them is often scant and depersonalised. However, coroner’s reports present us with a unique and rich set of insights. As medico-legal reports they provide a wealth of data, from which we can piece together a picture of the emergent hard drug scene. More significantly, however, as reports on the hours and days preceding unexpected deaths, coroners’ files offer us glimpses of everyday lives which were not simply defined by ‘hard drug’ use – from people getting fish and chips in Rialto to smoking cannabis under WB Yeats in Stephen’s Green. This paper will bring together macro- and micro-histories to map out the drug scene and to argue that, rather than being a distinct subculture, it was an ordinary part of everyday life in many parts of Dublin from as early as 1969/70.

Zoom Registration: https://ucd-ie.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ROpNP_U_R8m96d-VESYGaw


The Culture of Maternal Mental Illness: Grete L. Bibring's Studies on the Psychology of Pregnancy in Postwar America.

Udodiri Okwandu (Harvard University)

Abstract: Focusing on the postwar period, this paper explores how investigations into the psychological processes of pregnancy and its relationship to the psychosomatic development of infants and children relied on and reinscribed normative conceptions of the heterosexual, white, upper- and middle- class nuclear family. To do so, this paper examines the work of Grete Lehner Bibring, an Austrian-American psychoanalyst and the first female full professor at Harvard Medical. Beginning in the 1950s, Bibring initiated a series of studies on the psychological aspects of pregnancy at the Beth Israel Hospital in Boston in order to understand how the poor psychological health of the mother contributed to the multitude of serious developmental and psychosomatic problems of infancy and early childhood. As a result, her work fit squarely within larger developments in psychology that linked family relations and a child’s mental health with the social stability and progress of the nation. While previous investigations argued that pregnancy simply unveiled underlying mental health pathology, Bibring positioned pregnancy itself as a crisis that affected all expectant mothers, no matter their state of psychic health. While Bibring aimed to transform the nature of care for all expectant mothers, I argue that her conceptualization of what constituted normal pregnancy, family, psyche, and mother-child dynamics were inherently centered on white middle-class subjectivities. This had the effect of rendering non-white families and women either invisible, or inherently problematic. Consequently, the potential developmental or psychosomatic disorders that affected these children were naturalized and implicitly understood as compromising the nation’s prosperity.

Zoom Registration: https://ucd-ie.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_PBPOpmcVQL-Bk2mM8RSO_Q


Methods of Barbarism? – Bacteriological Warfare, Bioterrorism, and the 1920 Sinn Féin Typhoid Plot

Claas Kirchhelle (University College Dublin)

Abstract: On November 18th, 1920, members of the British Parliament listened in dismay as the Secretary of State for Ireland, Sir Hamar Greenwood, informed them of a plot to infect the British garrison at Dublin Castle with typhoid and glanders. Revealed just three days before the tragic events of Bloody Sunday, the “Irish ‘Rebel’ Army’s methods of barbarism“ (Daily Telegraph) were condemned by pro-British commentators but were dismissed as a “sheer invention” by Nationalist Parliamentarians – a view that was later repeated in official Irish witness interviews and historical accounts of the War of Independence. This presentation re-examines the events surrounding the so-called Sinn Féin Typhoid Plot. It shows that parts of the Irish independence movement were indeed contemplating biological attacks on British garrisons, traces the origins of these ideas to wartime Germany, and contextualises them within the wider ferment of early 20th century thinking about microbial manipulation, asymmetric warfare, and (il)legitimate violence.

Zoom Registration: https://ucd-ie.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_LuSQfvFHR0CcZbp5fulvWA

Spring Term 2024


Hannah-Louise Clark (University of Glasgow)



Marc Caball (University College Dublin) & Jason McElligott (Marsh’s Library Dublin)



Gareth Milward (University of Southern Denmark)


Contact UCD Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland

School of History, Room J113, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
T: +353 1 716 8185