IMMA BLOG

IMMA – Irish Museum of Modern Art


“The devastation of the people”: an interview with Nancy Scheper-Hughes

Duncan Campbell, The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy, 2016 (still). Photo courtesy of Rina Yang

On a recent return to Ireland in late March, at the invitation of the School of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork, anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes appeared for two speaking engagements to discuss her first major piece of work ‘Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics‘ (1979/ 2001) and how it has served as a source of inspiration for artist Duncan Campbell.  Campbell’s latest film work The Welfare of Tomás Ó Hallissy was, in part, inspired by Scheper-Hughes’ debut. In IMMA on the 30 March she spoke with Campbell and Professor Luke Gibbons (acting as discussion moderator) reflecting on her experiences of tracing the social disintegration of a remote village in Ireland and her later attempts to reconcile an honest ethnography with the community. The talk held at IMMA was recorded and can be listened at the end of this blog post or on SoundCloud by clicking here. She then traveled to Cork on 3 April 2017 to speak with IMMA Director Sarah Glennie at University College Cork – School of Applied Social Studies.

Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics is an objective study of rural Irish life in the small town of ‘Ballybran’ in the 1970s. Plagued by social and individual problems, Scheper-Hughes was intrigued by the social life of the villagers and how their culture, language, religion, values, interactions, and way of life contributed to the community’s daily life and overall slow, yet steady decline through illness, emigration and isolation. Scheper-Hughes took particular interest in the prevalence of mental illness in rural communities, especially amongst men who often suffered from severe depression and schizophrenia.

While Scheper-Hughes was staying with us at IMMA we invited Dr. Lisa Godson, Co-Director, MA Design History and Material Culture, NCAD to meet with her and to write this blog about the occasion.

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