HIS32770 Life on the Edge: Drugs, Institutions, and Stigma in Ireland since 1960

Academic Year 2020/2021

This module explores the cultural history of contemporary Ireland through the experiences, identities, and representations of marginalised communities. As historians we often speak about the erasure of marginalised communities from the more-or-less distant past, and the importance of recovering those lost voices. However, this erasure is a process which continues to the present day.
This module examines the histories of seven marginalised communities in Ireland, some of which communities have been marginalised by their economic circumstances, like homeless people; some by their perceived choices, like intravenous drug users; and others have been marginalised by structural and cultural racism, like Travellers. In the module we investigate the construction and intersectionality of this marginalisation, as well as attempts by marginalised communities to express their individual or collective agency through organisations and protests. To do this we will use a variety of primary sources, from archival documentation to novels and twitter conversations, and trace the histories of protest groups, like the Prisoners’ Union and Concerned Parents’ Against Drugs; changing public policies like anti-Traveller ‘assimilationist’ policies and the move towards psychiatric ‘care in the community’; and individual experiences of marginalisation expressed in letters written by prisoners in the 1970s and Emma Dabiri’s recent Don’t Touch My Hair. Through each history we will discover important theoretical and methodological tools that will help you to understand other marginalised histories in the future.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

To understand the histories of marginalised communities.
To critically analyse recent and continued marginalisation.
To appreciate the intersectionality of marginalisation.
To identify and evaluate primary sources about marginalised histories.
To expand your methodological toolkit for exploring marginalised histories.

Indicative Module Content:

Psychiatric inpatients: stigma and institutionalisation in theory and practice.
Prisoners: demographic change and agency in the total institution.
Black Irish people: personal narratives and new media sources.
Student research projects: presentations on primary sources.
Intravenous drug users: how class shapes marginalisation.
Travellers: intergenerational structural racism.
Immigrants: localising international news narratives.
Homelessness: Intersectional marginalisation.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning


Online Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:

This is a discursive, small-group module, taught in two-hour long weekly seminars. Students will discuss the topic of the day in light of the assigned reading and their own research. Students will also present their own research on relevant primary sources which they have identified.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Journal: Learning Journal Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: 4,000 words research paper Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Presentation: Presentation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Attendance: Attendance and Participation Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Individual feedback on presentations and on essay preparation, either written or by appointment during office hours. Peer group feedback on presentations and other contributions.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.

Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 Mon 11:00 - 11:50
Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 Tues 09:00 - 10:50