What is it?

Duration: Eight sessions over eight weeks (one per week).

Format: Participative & taught online. Graduate-style course with weekly reading material.

Dates

Current availabilities:

Every Sunday from 13th March 2023 to 30th April 2023 inclusive. 17:30-19:30 Irish time.

Course overview

What does ‘Irishness’ mean? Where did this ‘identity’ come from? What would it look like to unravel it?

How does ‘whiteness’ underpin how all of us in modern society think, act, and live, ensuring that we maintain systems that are ultimately destructive to ourselves and all planetary life?

Why are whiteness and coloniality something we should be concerned about in efforts to reconnect with the land and ancestral animist lifeways?

What does it mean to re/claim ‘indigeneity’ as modern people in Ireland today? Can or should it be done? What is the impulse gesturing towards?

In what ways can we respond to our position as both colonised and coloniser in Ireland?

What can and does the process of decolonization actually look like in the Irish context (being aware of the word’s misuse as metaphor)?

These are some of the questions we will explore throughout this course, and more.

The 2020 Black Lives Matter moment was a wake up call for many people racialised as white who were never required to think of themselves in racialised terms before then. Since then many people have also been realising the profound impoverishment of belonging to a cultural way of being that relies on racialised structural violence and violence against Earth in order to function. This is a way of being based on hyper-individualism and endless consumption, that leaves us alienated and in permanent ‘existential crisis’ while diminishing Earth and the rest of life to property, resource, data, curiosity, hobby, or object of conservation. In short, this cultural way of being structures the white supremacist modern/colonial world system we inhabitand it inhabits us personally in how we have been socialised to live, think, know, sense, act, and relate.

This course is designed to provide frameworks and space for understanding the necessity to unravel modern/colonial (white and Eurocentric) ways of being and knowing in order to open possibilities beyond it in the context of the island of Ireland and ‘Irishness’ as an identity. The overarching framework of the course is to problematise modern/colonial systems and ways of thinking, and to enliven possibilities for mending relationships with land that aren’t guided by the pervasive logic of separability that fundamentally structures how modernity operates.

When we talk about ‘whiteness’ we are not talking solely about skin colour or genetics, though phenotypic features play a significant part in how one is affected and positioned beyond one’s power by the structures that uphold white supremacist systems. We are talking about the all-encompassing cultural ways of life, being, knowing, and doing that are mostly buried beyond our conscious awareness of how we exist in the world. ‘Whiteness’ can be understood as being cultural, structural, systemic, epistemological (pertaining to knowledge-systems), ontological (pertaining to ways of being in the world), and political. It pervades even the most seemingly basic assumptions and ‘common sense’ ideas of modern society, and historically and systemically favours lighter skin in the unequal global allocations of power, wealth, entitlements, knowledge, status, decision making, resources, and so on. It affects everyone adversely regardless of skin colour, and does so unevenly based on skin colour.

White Anglocentric modern/colonial culture can be said to be the culture that we largely inhabit and reproduce in Ireland today. Gaelic culture still exists in damaged fragments on the island but it faces continual marginalisation and erasure. These two cultural ‘worlds’ exist in contradiction and tension, even with overlap. Society on the island is not actively lived through Gaelic understandings of how to live in right relation with the land, for example. English language conceptions of ‘nature’ and white Eurocentric ways of being & knowing dominate lived realities on the island. Gaelic culture tends to get reduced to a quaint attachment (eg. through music and sports) that gives some ‘flavour’ to Anglophone Irish culture that has otherwise assimilated into European colonial standards in most aspects of social, cultural, and economic life

Course structure

  • Week 1-3: Understanding modernity and our place in it; histories of whiteness, race and racism, how they structure the modern world; the (de)colonization of knowledge
  • Week 4-5: Whiteness and modernity/coloniality in Ireland and ‘Irishness’
  • Week 6: Thinking & doing decolonization
  • Week 7-8: Decolonial possibilities in the revitalisation of ancestral cosmologies

What to expect

  • IMPORTANT: there will be about 8 hours of autonomous learning required each week to get the most out of the course. Please make sure you have the time and capacity for doing this work by yourself outside of the designated class session times. All learning materials will be provided.
  • Eight 2-hour online group sessions over 8 weeks (1 session per week, see dates at top of page).
  • Having the opportunity to participate in discussion with other course participants during each session. The course is an active co-learning process.
  • Time will be made for us to collectively grieve the wounds and heartbreak we find ourselves inheriting in this time and place of unprecedented cultural impoverishment and global crises. This work is ancestral: it has taken many generations for this (im)perfect storm of interlocking global crises to be created, and will take many more to unravel and learn from. If you are thinking about signing up, I invite you to consider what your task might be as an ancestor (rather than a protagonist).

Who is this course for?

  • The course is likely too ‘far in’ if you have just learned about all of the issues at hand. I would say a slightly above beginner to advanced levels of knowledge related to some or all of the issues this course intersects is ideal (see also the course dynamics section below). Some of the material will be ‘foundational’ (eg. a history of racism) in order to ground the group in some shared understandings before attempting to get to more depth. The course material moves at a swift enough pace however and we will be submerging into murky depths by the end. It is easy to fall behind if the effort is not made to keep up with the recommended materials each week. Please be prepared and able to do this autonomous work.
  • People both inside and outside Ireland are welcome to participate for any reason. You do not necessarily have to be Irish or have any connection to Ireland. If you feel drawn to participate in this work, please get in touch. The issues at hand are global and concern everyone in varying ways. It is worth noting that as the course mentor I can only personally speak from my own locus of experience (working class; settled; white; Irish; without wanting to or feeling ‘invested’ in any of these as ‘identities’ in themselves as fundamentally colonial categories). For example, this means I cannot speak directly to the experience of being a settler on Indigenous lands as I have not lived that (but I have begun inviting collaborators that can speak to this experience). As such, I cannot offer explicit advice as to what settlers should ‘do’, though I can speak to some of the dynamics that involve us both.

Course dynamics and acknowledgements

  • I kindly request that you sign up for this course only if you feel that you are prepared and ready to engage in this kind of work. It is by no means easy. If your instinct says this is for you, it probably is. As such, there will not be space in the course for debating definitions about race, whiteness, and racism, and whether or not these things exist or have real and deeply profound effects in the world. I expect that you will have at least a basic understanding or realisation that race, whiteness, colonialism (etc.) profoundly shape the modern world in enormously complex ways, and want to engage with that complexity in this specific context.
  • Active engagement is required if you decide to participate. While I acknowledge that everyone has their own ways of learning, this course is not for people who would prefer to sit with their camera off and remain silent. Engagement enhances everyone’s experience and learning. We are all co-creators in what gets learned and the depths to which the discussions go. This is not based on passive lecturing as product delivery, or learning as consumption.
  • I have been attempting to de-centre the role of the teacher in this course and instead re-centre the co-learning of guide and participant. It is impossible for any one person to know everything. There will be things that participants can and will share that the course guide doesn’t know. This reality is fully welcome in the space of the course as it enriches the experience for everyone and can generate unexpected turns that can interrupt tired and harmful patterns of doing and thinking. Offering the course is also a continuous process of unlearning and re-existing for me as a guide seeking to undo harmful modes of relating, thinking, and doing that I have also been conditioned within and by.
  • What will be offered and taught on the course is far from the only way to understand the vast subject matters covered. This is simply my own formulation of trying to combine these complex interrelated tasks and create (hopefully) meaningful learning opportunities around them.
  • The course will go ahead only if a minimum number of participants is met.

Who is this course NOT for?

  • If this course description so far has generated discomfort or defensiveness in you, this could be a sign that the course is either for you or not for you. If you feel that this process of unlearning may negatively impact your health and wellbeing at this time, it may be better not to sign up for now. If you feel that you are prepared to lean into your own discomfort or defensiveness for their teaching potential, then this may be a sign that you should sign up. There are profound opportunities for healing in the unlearning process, but it is better to be at least somewhat prepared for that undertaking specifically. That said, there is no ‘perfect’ time for which to do work like this and one can never be ‘fully’ prepared.
  • If you are consciously (or unconsciously) seeking comfort, answers, solutions, authority, shortcuts, new universal understandings, escape routes, innocence, gurus, expansion of entitlements, etc. they won’t be found here. What is offered here is an invitation into understanding the infinitesimal complexity of our entanglement with/in & as modernity, without any suggested solutions or exit plans. It is a pause at a quiet cottage for some nuanced reflection on how and why things have come to be the way they are, and what that means for us at different levels.

Course facilitator

Jimmy Ó Briain Billings

Jimmy is a learner, researcher, and sociologist. He runs a decolonial education project called ‘Tuiscint na Talún’, which can be translated as ‘wisdom of the land’ from Gaeilge. He established Tuiscint na Talún to facilitate conversations around what decolonization means in the Irish context as a basis for reconnection with the land and ancestral lifeways that were in relationship with it. Jimmy is an Associate Researcher with the MA in Race, Migration and Decolonial Studies at University College Dublin.

 

Sign up, pricing, and payment plan

Email [email protected] to discuss or sign up. Please send a brief few paragraphs on why you want to participate in the course before making any transfers. As per the Dana Economy principles, I don’t want to enter into a transactional relationship with you as the provider of a service for a consumer. Instead I ask that you consider the payment as a gift contribution that makes the sharing of this important work continually possible. I am not trying to turn enormous profits here – there are certainly less complicated routes of work for that. Pricing is based on maintaining a basic living for myself so that I can continue to refine and offer this work.

Amounts include transaction fees.

The following is a sliding scale of suggested contribution amounts with some explanations. I trust each person applying to opt for the amount that most appropriately suits their financial position at this time (you don’t need to explain your situation to me!)

(I) PARTIAL CONTRIBUTION TIER: These amounts currently do not fully cover the costs of the continuous refinement, running, and teaching of the course. I recognise these are not insignificant amounts of money to part with when you have very little. In time I hope to be able to reduce this lower end of the scale and also eventually offer full scholarships.

  • Partial contribution tier 1: €260 (€100 deposit)
  • Partial contribution tier 2: €348 (€100 deposit)

(II) FULL CONTRIBUTION TIER: This amount fully covers the cost of the course. Opting for this tier does not necessarily mean that you have significant financial means. It means that you consider participation in this course important and parting with this amount of money will not cause financial difficulty for you.

  • Full contribution tier: €416 (€150 deposit)

(III) PAY IT FORWARD TIER: If you have the financial means and are willing to support others in the participation of this valuable work, please consider sharing the suggested amount below or more depending on your means and willingness at this time. The generosity of those with more significant financial means will allow me to offer increasingly lower prices or scholarships on the lower end of the scale to support more people to partake in this work. It enables me to continue to offer this work at all. It will also allow for guest collaborations in future which will enrich the experience.

  • Pay it forward suggested amount: €520 or more

ADDITIONAL MENTORSHIP OPTION: I am providing the option to avail of four 1-to-1 video call sessions that run alongside the course to help you navigate the topics as we encounter them. Please enquire by email if you are considering this additional option.

  • Additional mentorship option amount: €180

Deposit and payment plan

Deposits are non-refundable and required to secure your place on the course. Deposit amounts depend on your chosen contribution amount (listed above).

Following payment of deposit you are asked to complete the full payment over two subsequent installments as follows:

  • First installment due any time before the first session of the course.
  • Second installment due any time before the fifth session of the course (half way through).

One full single payment is also an option.

 

Refund policy

I kindly request that you only sign up for this course if you are sure that it is right for you, and that you have the necessary time and space to participate fully. This policy is in place to care for the time, effort, and energy it takes me to formulate and deliver this course with a deliberately small number of people, as well as due to the fact that otherwise the place could have been offered to someone else.

Due to this request, a 50% refund of installment payments (not deposit) is possible only before 3 weeks prior to the course start date.

After this cut off point of 3 weeks, there will be no refunds given once payment has been made except in rare circumstances. 

As stated, deposits are non-refundable.

If the course does not go ahead due to the enrolment quota not being met, participants will be fully refunded including deposit.

 

 

Tuiscint na Talún T&C and Mission Statement: http://talun.ie/terms-conditions/

© Jimmy Billings 2021-2022