Dr Darragh Gannon is an historian of Modern Ireland and the Irish Diaspora with a particular interest in the Irish in Great Britain and the Irish Revolution. He is a Lecturer at University College Dublin’s School of Irish, Celtic Studies and Folklore, and is the Vice President of the Global Irish Diaspora Congress. In 2021, he was the Ireland Canada University Foundation’s D’Arcy McGee Beacon Fellow at the University of Toronto.
Who is your favourite academic?
I most admire those scholars who can marry insightful historical analysis with a flair for writing. In terms of Irish History and Irish Studies, Roy Foster and Declan Kiberd are national treasures.
What are you reading for work and/or for leisure these days?
As a scholar of Global History (in addition to Irish History and Irish Studies), my bookshelf ranges widely, from the Global North to the Global South. My reading on a given week will often depend on the nature of my next deadline e.g. conference paper on Canada, article on India, etc.
On my desk consistently over the last six months have been Adom Getachew’s Worldmaking after Empire and Dominic Sachsenmaier’s Global entanglements of a man who never traveled.
Outside of academia, I have been reading Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry, which documents the remarkable human toll and cultural fissures created by the Tōhuku Earthquake of 2011. It’s a fascinating account of the divisions between traditionalist and modernist visions of Japanese society – I would highly recommend.
What podcast do you recommend?
BBC Radio 4’s catalogue of podcasts is outstanding, particularly their Great Lives and In Our Time series. I set aside time on Sundays to catch up on both over coffee.
Beyond History, I’m a True Crime podcast aficionado! The best in the genre are Serial (I could listen to Sarah Koenig talk about anything), Up and Vanished, and Real Crime Profile.
What is your favourite archive or library?
Different archives for different reasons. The British Library has been a home from home for me for many years and a place to reconnect with friends in London. The American Irish Historical Society in Manhattan is a beautiful archive in which to carry out research – with views of Central Park. The NLI and UCD Archives, meanwhile, remain the international gold standard for research support. Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa still remains on my bucket list of archives to visit.
What book or movie changed your life?
When I was an undergraduate I took an eye-opening course on interwar European cinema, during which I was introduced to Jean Renoir’s 1939 masterpiece, La règle du jeux. It’s an entertaining yet incisive satirical treatment of the French bourgeoisie on the eve of the Second World War. More impressively, I was really struck by Renoir’s skilful use of cinematic technique – the infamous rabbit hunt scene remains a jarring metaphor for modern warfare – ahead of his time.
I watch The Lord of the Rings at least once every year, having read the book multiple times. Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Middle Earth succeeded in exceeding all my expectations.
A final word for The Wire. While neither a book nor a film, it remains one of the great works of fiction of the twenty-first century. It deserves to be studied at Harvard.
Do you play music while you work? If so, what?
Not when I’m writing. I often listen to classical music between writing sessions, however, to relax and to let ideas germinate.
What are your essential research tools/supplies and why?
I have to have tea/coffee on hand when I’m writing. It serves as a useful coping mechanism for when words are not appearing during the creative process.
Beyond the rituals of writing, I established a tradition during research trips abroad of buying a book and an album which was unique to that time and place. Archival research and cultural engagement are important to me when I study abroad – I have to make time and space for both.
During my last research visit, to Melbourne in January 2020, I bought Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu. The study, which accounts for the development of indigenous societies in pre-colonial Australia, was the subject of a contentious national debate during my period as O’Donnell Fellow. Reading Dark Emu again brings me back to warm weather evenings on Melbourne’s Lygon Street.
What do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your career/degree?
How to delete TEAMS.
What is your favourite way to de-stress?
Like most people, COVID-19 has dramatically changed my approach to socialising. I miss going to gigs (Chemical Brothers were the last group I saw before lockdown – they’re still amazing!); meeting friends for dinner and drinks; and travelling to international events.
Restrictions notwithstanding, I make a concerted effort to watch the Arsenal game every weekend (not always stress-free!) and I try to get to the gym at least twice a week. Netflix has been surprisingly good over the last twelve months – Money Heist and Call My Agent are a lot of fun!