1) Commemoration: Contexts & Concepts

2) The Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization

3) Ethnographic & Human Centred Research


Commemoration: Contexts & Concepts

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This project deals with the theme of rituals of commemoration and memory. Examined from our present position at the ‘end of history’, this period of centenaries offers an opportunity to reflect on how our society has been shaped by the past, and how our means of commemorating the past shapes our society.

This project is led by Dr John O’Brien (WIT) and Dr Lorcan Byrne (UCC).

Rituals and practices of commemoration are important as they are a source of ethics, shape collective identity and foster solidarity, create traditions, give meaning through providing a sense of where we have come from and where we are going, they articulate the material interests of group members and facilitate collective action, they represent a way of processing traumatic events of the past, and are potentially a means of defusing conflict through dealing with shame and anger over past actions. Such rituals and practices are particularly important in the context of our current age of permanent presentness and permanent change (Bauman 1999), based on an anomic, post-traditional culture, driven by the expansion of mediated experiences and rapid change, in which ethical memory has become clouded.

Conference 2015 [here]

Colloquium, June 2016 [here]






The Social Pathologies of Contemporary Civilization


homepage here:  http://socialpath.simplesite.com/



This project explores the nature of contemporary malaises, diseases, illnesses and syndromes in their relation to cultural pathologies of the social body and disorders of the collective esprit de corps of contemporary society.

Anders Petersen (Aalborg University, DK), Bert van den Berg (Erasmus University, NL) and Kieran Keohane (UCC) lead this project.

The central research hypothesis is that contemporary epidemics, such as depression, are to be understood in the light of individual and collective experiences of profound social changes and cultural shifts in our civilization and of the social hegemonization of the biomedical – psychiatric diagnostic culture. Multi-disciplinary in approach the project addresses questions of how these conditions are manifest at the level of individual bodies and minds, as well as the 'bodies politic’. A central focus is on the emergence of a new kind subject.

We live in so-called ‘neo-liberal’ times in which we experience an intense, marketed pressure to ‘be oneself’, as well as an extreme difficulty to ‘be a self’; a ‘liberated’ ‘self-forming’ subject: hyper-individuated, ahistorical, acritical, amoral, and amnesiac; but also a vulnerable, suffering subject in need of care.






Anthropological Foundations of a Moral Economy


WIT Website


 …as flies in a jar of honey, trapped in a single paradigm of thought from which we are finding it difficult to escape.  We perceive the need for new thinking that will source new policies that address the human challenges of social inclusion, poverty elimination, gender equality, public health, and security in its widest sense…                        

– President Michael D. Higgins,

New York University address 28/9/2015


Dr. James Cuffe and Dr. Jill O'Mahony are directors of the EHCR research group at Waterford Insitute of Technology to provide research and training for industry under the rubric of the moral economy.

The Ethnographic & Human Centred Research Group works on the anthropological foundations Moral Economy by articulating the ethical relationship between consumers and business. This type of applied anthropology articulates concerns that economic forces can override moral behaviour which is conducive, indeed necessary, to establishing a thriving, flourishing society. Moral economies are sustained by central anthropological concepts such as sacrifice (R. Girard) and reciprocity in gift relations (M. Mauss) Projects undertaken by this research group within the centre will explicate the anthropological foundations of a moral economy in commerical settings. To date our projects have included providing CPD traniing for the insurance sector, investigating the relationship between the agricultural community and the Irish state, investigating marine communities and economic flexibilty, funding PhD research through scholarships, and

Ethnography for business

Ethnography places the human at the centre of its research and placing the human at the centre means socially informed policies and culturally relevant products for consumers.  Anthropologists and ethnographers are employed by large multinational corporations as consultants and researchers for this reason, they are tasked with establishing relationships between ‘big data’ and lived experience. Going behind quantitative data industries that value the customer experience (User Experience – UX design & research) seek trained specialists to go to the ‘field’ (‘deep-diving’ in American marketing parlance) to provide interpretative insights based on human behaviours. These specialists, trained in qualitative research methods, seek out the social dimension and cultural contexts of human behaviour in relation to a given subject or product or behaviour.

Ethics for business

Stream 2 will provide comparative investigations of moral economies. The concept of a moral economy was popularized in anthropology by James Scott and has been an effective explanatory tool in interpreting social movements in China and regions within South East Asia in both contemporary and historic times. Drawing upon anthropological literature of both modern and 'traditional' cultures this research stream will bring an external frame of reference to bear on our modern economy. At the juxtaposition of local communities with market dynamics, and its ‘faceless’ alienating forces, there is a wealth of archival and ethnographic information to explore; From understanding a local community’s normative worldview, their subsequent perceptions and ambitions for a flourishing society to how unjust economic forces can be negotiated, resisted and potentially overcome. A comparative analysis coupled with ethnography will unveil the techniques of political economy and alternative narratives for a moral economy, thus explicating stratagems with which to identify and uncover forces at work in our own societies, and, vitally, to propose resources for those affected by austerity and economic hardship.