Michael McKenna

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PhD Student at Queen's University Belfast

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I am a 23 year old PhD student from Belfast, studying at Queen's University Belfast where I have also completed an Undergraduate Degree in French Studies and a Masters Degree in Modern Languages. My main research interests are in alternative archival practices particularly in terms of the Atlantic Slave Trade, tracing links between the subjugation of the Irish and African diaspora. I began to explore this in my MA thesis by investigating sources of alternative archival practices (such as historical fiction) concerning the Salem Witch Trials and the Irish Slave Trade. Through this thesis, and continuing on into my PhD, I aim to shift the pre-eminence in critical discourse away from racial discrimination in favour of an exploration of the extent to which the subjugation of slaves was linked to uneven power distribution throughout Europe and the Americas both in the seventeenth century and through to the present day.
My PhD is a collaborative doctoral project with Queen's University and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (N. Ireland's national archive) and as part of it, I will also be looking into the ethics of commemoration in our archives, linking the project to current debates on the preservation of textual and material artefacts from our individual and collective pasts.
A major focus is placed on questions related to the changing function of national archives and museums in the digital age of global communications and circulation. In an increasingly multicultural world where static conceptions of nationhood, community, home and belonging have been replaced by more fluid models of identity formation, the challenge of accommodating changing demographics, histories and memories, which are at once multiple and collective, is pressing.

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