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UCD and American Studies

UCD has a long and distinguished history in the teaching of American Studies. A Chair in Modern English and American Literature was held by Professor Denis Donoghue as far back as 1960. In more recent years the university has fostered a unique range of expertise and experience in the teaching and research of various aspects of American culture, including history, politics, literature, music, film, philosophy, economics, and sociology. It has established Ireland’s first Professorship of American Studies and annually awards the prestigious Mary Ball Washington Chair of American History to a distinguished visiting American Scholars.

In May 2001, the Government of Ireland recommended that an Institute for American Studies should be established in Ireland. It also decided that it should be named for the 42nd President of the United States, President William Jefferson Clinton, in recognition of his own crucial and personal role, as well as those of the United States Government, Congress and people, in the Irish Peace Process.

University College Dublin successfully tendered for the project and the UCD Clinton Institute for American Studies has been formally established at UCD, which recognises the need to develop a resource for the island of Ireland as a whole, as well as to interact with other networks of excellence in American Studies in the United States, European Union and beyond.

Studying America in Ireland

This is a fascinating time to study the United States as it comes to terms with its global status as a ‘unipolar’ power and the Clinton Institute offers a very fresh perspective on the US in the 21st century.

Under conditions of Globalization the meanings of ‘America’ circulate widely today and there is a mass-mediated common knowledge about American life spreading across the world. Yet, wherever we are in the world, we perceive and understand the United States from regional and local perspectives, and in response to cultural, political and economic imperatives of our own locations. The Clinton Institute will work to broaden and deepen knowledge of the United States from a distinctively Irish perspective and advance study of Irish-US relations in historical and contemporary frames.

Ireland’s relationship with the US is a long and complex one. The history of Irish immigration to the US has proved the foundation for vital cultural, political and economic relations today, and strong bonds of shared identity – almost 40 million Americans cited Irish descent at the last census. At the same time, Ireland has rapidly emerged in recent years as one of the wealthiest economies in the European Union and a key political presence in the shaping of the ‘new Europe’. Today, there is public discussion of whether Ireland should follow ‘Boston or Berlin’ as symbolic models for policy-making or for imagining the future. Ireland’s contemporary struggle with its own identity and its symbolic transatlantic position make it an ideal vantage point for the study of past, present and future relations between Europe and the US.

The Clinton Institute will play a key role in advancing study of these relations through promotion of American Studies as a unique, interdisciplinary perspective on transatlantic issues. In doing so it will support and supplement this study in association with scholars across Ireland and in dialogue with Irish media, business and political cultures.