Seminar Series 2017/2018


Seminar Series Semester Two

Speaker: Dr Barbara Górnicka

Title: 'From Darwin to Elias - a curious case of blushing. Towards a sociological explanation'

Thursday 8 February,1PM. D418, Newman Building

One of the mysteries spanning sociology, psychology and biology today is the intriguing phenomenon of blushing. Those who attempted to decode its physiological and emotional meanings, agree that it is an occurrence which sends very contradictory messages to the people around. During my study on the relationship between nakedness, embarrassment and shame, which I conducted among the Irish naturists, it came to my attention how little do we actually know about the causes and reasons that cause people to blush. In order to provide a good sociological explanation of the curious phenomenon that blushing is, we need to first discuss some of the main obstacles which may come in the way of encompassing it in more absolute terms. First of all, it is important to stress some of the main difficulties that come in the way when researching blushing. I will offer a critical outlook at some of the studies within psychology and social psychology, which may offer some important clues for future research. Then I will also stress how crucial for grasping the mechanisms behind blushing is revisiting the problem of not only the differences in defining key emotions like shame and embarrassment, but also take a more developmental or rather tap into the theories of emotional evolution.
In this paper I attempt to decipher the case of blushing by drawing on my findings from the study of nakedness and shame, together with a comparison of findings from Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals with an Eliasian approach on the matters of shame, embarrassment and human development.

Speaker: Dr Niall Ó Dochartaigh (NUIG)

Title: 'Time and Emotion: The Hunger Strike as Protest Tactic'

Thursday 15 February,1PM. D418, Newman Building


The hunger strike is a widely used and frequently successful protest tactic employed by activists across the political spectrum in widely varying political contexts, in authoritarian regimes as well as liberal democracies. Despite this there is very little sustained analysis of this protest tactic and we have little understanding of why it is chosen, why it frequently succeeds and why it sometimes fails. This paper analyses the political dynamics of the 1981 hunger strike by Irish Republican prisoners in which ten men died, focusing on temporal dimensions of negotiations aimed at ending the protests. Contrary to the existing literature on hunger strikes which strongly emphasises culture, tradition and emotion, this paper argues that the hunger strike is closely connected to the logics of modernity.

The paper challenges the widespread assumption that a hunger strike exerts power primarily through exerting moral pressure on the more powerful actor by demonstrating a willingness to suffer. It argues instead that power derives above all from the temporal concentration of forces that its deadline-setting aspect helps to generate.The hunger strike provides a way for weak actors to set a deadline when dealing with complex bureaucracies that derive much of their power from deferral and delay. The paper focuses especially on the way in which bargaining power and bargaining moves are intensely concentrated in the final hours. It examines the intertwined temporalities of three crucial aspects of the negotiation process: information, communication and biological processes. The paper argues that this analytical approach can be deployed in the analysis of the relationship between time and power in many other forms of protest and suggests a number of avenues for further inquiry into the temporal dimensions of protest.



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