The department's research seminar (Thursday evenings during teaching term) attracts distinguished speakers from Ireland and abroad, and provides research students with an opportunity to present their work.
The current health emergency forced this Department to interrupt its regular seminar series. As a community of scholars, however, we are determined to continue to share our research with as wide an audience as possible. The recorded papers that will appear here, aside from the product of ongoing research of the highest quality, are an act of defiance in the face of adversity and an expression of hope in better times to come.
The Jolliest Barrack? The power and limitations of laughter in post-Stalinist Hungary (1956-1989)
Dr Lili Zách is Assistant Professor in Twentieth-Century European History at the Department of History, Maynooth University. She holds a PhD from NUI Galway.
The failed Hungarian revolution and subsequent retaliations in November 1956 marked the beginning of the post-Stalinist time period in Hungary. The immediate years after the revolution are traditionally associated with fear, repression, arrests, and executions. This talk will provide an insight into the significance of humour as a coping mechanism for the collective trauma caused by the invasion of the Soviet troops, highlighting how the different uses and functions of laughter may shed light on so far less explored aspects of communist dictatorships. In addition, humour also had the potential to strengthen social bonds and solidarity among the population, make sense of the absurdity of totalitarian ideologies, and function as a means of non-violent resistance to political oppression. However, humour was not exclusively associated with political dissent but also formed a crucial part of “official humour” in post-Stalinist Hungary, particularly following the 1963 amnesty that signified an important step towards a “welfare dictatorship”. Therefore, on the one hand, humour constituted a vital part of popular opinion in the form of underground jokes, anecdotes, gossips, and wisecracks; on the other hand, it was a valuable tool in state-sanctioned radio sketches and television programmes, cabaret theatre performances, and satirical caricature magazines that created a sense of normality in the dictatorship.
Click here for PowerPoint presentation with video.
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Egyptian Cultural Expansionism in Europe and the Mediterranean (1936-1952) - paper originally scheduled for 12 March 2020
Dr Hussam R. Ahmed is Assistant Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History in the Department of History at Maynooth University. He holds a PhD from McGill University and comes to Maynooth from the University of Cambridge.
This paper tells the story of Egypt’s attempts to situate itself as the guardian of Arabic and Islamic studies in Europe and French-controlled North Africa after signing the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty. Using Egyptian and French archival material, Dr Ahmed shows that for Egyptian negotiators, downplaying the “political” implications of these proposed academic institutes while stressing their “cultural” nature was a supremely political strategy forcing European governments to engage seriously with these requests despite fear of Egypt’s influence on various colonies and protectorates.
See it here using the following password: HRS_HA1203