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Who We Are

Ciara ThompsonCiara Thompson

Ciara Thompson is a PhD candidate at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Ciara’s research investigates lulling practices in Ireland. More specifically, it focuses on the significance of Irish traditional lullabies within 21st century lullaby singing in Ireland. Ciara received her MA in Ethnomusicology from the University of Limerick, and her BM in Vocal Performance, as well as certification in K-12 Music Education from the University of Iowa. She is a member of UL’s Gender Culture and Societies PhD Forum, and a core member of the Irish World Academy’s TradSong Research Cluster. She has presented at conferences in her field in Ireland and Sicily. Her research provides a depiction of musical and societal change in Ireland, and is contributing to the fields of Song Study, Irish Traditional Music, Midwifery and Ethnomusicology.

Kate O'BrienKara Shea O'Brien

Kara Shea O’Brien is a PhD candidate in the Irish World Academy. Kara’s research explores the intersection between figurative language and folk belief in the Irish song tradition. In particular, she is interested in the ways in which figurative language is used to encode meaning, belief, and cultural context in the traditional hunting songs of Ireland. She holds a double Bachelors in Vocal Performance and Music Business from the University of Colorado at Denver, and an M.A. in Irish Traditional Music Performance from the Irish World Academy.


Rachael WhitbeckRachel H. Whitbeck

Rachel H. Whitbeck is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Limerick where she is researching how individuals occupying intersecting LGB and ethic/religious identities feel included in Ireland’s LGBT community. She graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2017 with an MPhil in Race, Ethnicity and Conflict following the completion of her dissertation, ‘“Endorsing the Vision of our Forefathers”: Political Discourses in Ireland’s Marriage Equality Referendum’. In 2015, Rachel earned her BA in Political Science from the George Washington University.


Santhi CorcoranSanthi Corcoran

Santhi Corcoran is a PhD researcher at Mary Immaculate College, and a Further Education tutor with Limerick and Clare, Education and Training Board, Limerick. Her research is in the field of Sociology of Education, teacher education and diversity. She has a professional background in Healthcare, Psychology, Community Counselling and Social Care and provides training and consultancy in these areas. Santhi has worked extensively with regeneration programmes, community engagement programmes, policy development and service provision in health and social care in the UK. She was also responsible for the development of health and social care programmes for refugees, asylum seekers, migrant and homeless communities in the UK for over two decades and developed the New Entrants Screening Service (now the Transitional Primary Care Service), for the National Health Service in Newham, East London, UK. Santhi has contributed to migration and integration research both in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Tara GiddensTara Giddens

Tara Giddens is a PhD candidate with the School of English, Irish, and Communication at the University of Limerick. Tara’s thesis, “Investigating the Irish New Woman: Tracing Journalists in Media and Fiction” compares the Irish New Woman journalist with her fictional counterpart between the 1880s and 1920s. Currently, she is focusing on Irish-Canadian Journalist Kathleen Coleman “Kit” who performed her national and gender identity to maintain readership in her popular column the “Woman’s Kingdom”.

Tara received her BA in English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing, at Western Washington University, (Bellingham, WA) in 2009 and in 2015, she completed her MA in Irish Literature at Maynooth University. After being awarded the AHSS (Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences) Faculty PhD Teaching Fellowship in 2016 she started her PhD under the supervision of Dr Tina O’Toole.

Alena KielName: Mx Alena Kiel
Pronouns: they/them

Proposed title: “Gothic Queerness and Abjection: A Comparative Study of Fin de Siècle Irish Gothic Novels and Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter Novels”

Supervisor: Dr Tina O’Toole

Career: Alena completed a BA in Liberal Studies at University of Southern Maine in 2015, where they received first class honours on a final project which used queer theory to interpret the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. In 2017, they received an MA in Gender, Culture and Society with first class honours from University of Limerick. Their PhD research is a continuation of the work they began in the MA, which used queer and literary theories to enable a queer reading of the Hannibal Lecter novels and their film adaptations. Their essay ““A very well-tailored person suit”: Hannibal Lecter as Genderqueer American Gothic Cannibal” has been published in a special issue of The Popular Culture Studies Journal (vol. 6, no. 2-3) entitled “On Monstrosity”. Their poetry also features in the 2015 edition of UL’s literary journal Ogham Stone and in several local and regional publications in Maine and New England.


Louise Ryan is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Limerick. Her research examines the social and cultural implications of social media technologies. Her PhD studies the relationships between social media users and internet celebrities in the fitness industry on the Instagram platform. Louise holds an M.Phil in Gender and Women’s studies from TCD and previously researched online fan communities and sexualities in popular culture. Other research interests include media studies, surveillance technologies, body image and pop culture



Patti Short

Patti O’Malley completed an MA Gender, Culture and Society at UL and is now a fourth year PhD student in the Department of Sociology. Her PhD thesis title is ‘The Transracial Mother/Child Dyad and the Politics of Citizenship in Ireland’. Through the unique lens of the family milieu, this project aims to provide insight into the complex racialised positioning of the white Irish mother and her mixed ‘race’ child (ren) and examine the intersections with public politics of belonging and citizenship as differently lived by each member of the dyad. This research is being supervised by Dr Breda Gray. Patti is also a Board member of the Association of Mixed Race Irish and a mother of mixed ‘race’ Irish children.



PersonMargaret Murphy

PhD candidate, Mary Immaculate College

Project Worker, Embracing Diversity, Nurturing Integration: Learning for Life (EDNIP)



Margaret has both a teaching and academic background. Her research interests also include: equity of outcome in education for children and adults across all educational settings; migrant/minority ethnic children's experiences of school from early years through to adult education, children's religious/ethnic identities; the intersection between family/home and schooling for children. Margaret has taught in secondary schools, adult education settings and also delivers lectures at graduate level of the BEd programme. She holds a B.A. in French and Spanish, a Higher Diploma in Education, a Masters Degree in Education and is undertaking PhD research in Education. As EDNIP Project Worker, Margaret is committed to promoting and supporting the integration of families from a migrant background into school and community life in Ireland.

Eva Devaney

PhD Researcher, University of Limerick

I am currently a PhD researcher at the department of Sociology at the University of Limerick, Department of Sociology and a holder of an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship.


Michelle StarrMichelle Starr

PhD Researcher, University of Limerick

I am a PhD researcher in the Department of Sociology, University of Limerick and the focus of my research is a critical analysis of the practice of parent choice of school ethos at both policy level and parental level for understanding the reshaping of the primary school patronage system for meeting the needs of an increasingly cultural and religious diverse Irish society.
My PhD supervisors are Dr. Breda Gray, Department of Sociology and Dr. Aoife Neary, School of Education, University of Limerick.
My research interests are in Foucault’s philosophical framework for understanding power and knowledge discourses, sociology of education policy and practices and differences/diversity analysis in school systems and education.