Academics Becoming Activists: Reflections on Some Ethical Issues of the Justice for Magdalenes Campaign

  • Katherine O’Donnell
Part of the New Directions in Irish and Irish American Literature book series (NDIIAL)


This chapter describes the historical context for the emergence of the Irish Magdalene institutions as a punitive carceral system for girls and women in twentieth-century Ireland. Following a survey of the brutal conditions of the Magdalenes, the essay offers a sketch of the successful Justice for Magdalenes Campaign, which built legal arguments on the archival evidence and oral histories that demonstrated systemic involvement by the Irish state with the Magdalene institutions. The chapter closes by proposing an approach for the collection of the oral histories of traumatised populations following the suggestive concepts outlined by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick on paranoid and reparative readings.



My thanks to Claire McGettrick, Maeve O’Rourke, Mari Steed and in particular James M. Smith, for their comments on drafts of this essay. My mistakes remain my own but any insights I may have generated are dependent on their contribution and assistance.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine O’Donnell
    • 1
  1. 1.History of Ideas, School of PhilosophyUniversity College DublinDublinIreland

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