The Stephen E. King Chair Lecture Series is hosting James M. Smith, who will be presenting on “Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, Academic Advocacy and Restorative Justice.” This event will be held on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 in Minsky Recital hall at 7:00p.m. It is free and open to the public.
JAMES M. SMITH is an Associate Professor in the English Department and Irish Studies Program at Boston College. His book, Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries and the Nation’s Architecture of Containment, was praised by Colm Tóibín as essential reading “for anyone interested in the fear and cruelty surrounding women’s sexuality in the Ireland of the recent past.” The Magdalene laundries were workhouses in which many Irish women and girls were effectively imprisoned because they were perceived to be a threat to the moral fiber of society. Beginning in the 18th century, and operated by Catholic Church religious orders, the state utilized these institutions until the last laundry closed in 1996. In 1993, a public scandal was triggered when the remains of 155 inmates, buried in unmarked graves on the property, were exhumed, cremated, and buried elsewhere in a mass grave. Smith’s work with archival materials and survivors is, in Colum McCann’s words, a “brilliant, art-driven examination of a story, or history, that needs to be told over and over and over again, lest it be forgotten or allowed to seep into the ambient noise.” Smith is a member of Justice For Magdalenes Research (JFMR), the advocacy group that brought these institutions to the attention of the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) in Geneva.