What is it?

Duration: Eight sessions over eight weeks.

Format: Taught online (sessions recorded). Graduate-style course with group participation, weekly reading material, and exercises.


Upcoming availability:

Every Sunday from 4th June 2023 to 23rd July 2023 inclusive. 17:30-19:30 Irish time.

Course overview

What does ‘Irishness’ mean? How was this ‘identity’ created? What would it look like to unravel it?

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

What would it mean to re/claim ‘indigeneity’ as modern people in Ireland today? Can or should it be done? What can the desire to claim it tell us?

In what ways can we respond to Ireland’s complex position in colonial histories and systems, having been both colonised and participating in colonialism?

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.

Ireland never decolonized. Two states were formed on the island in 1922 and created divergent societal paths. Neither undertook a process of decolonization. Both societies left colonial institutions, economic logics, and legal structures in place, while on deeper levels colonial modes of being, knowing, sensing, and relating have remained normalised and intact into the present. Even a new state imagined as a ‘united’ Ireland that would bring the British-occupied ‘northern’ state into the political fold with the formally independent ‘southern’ state would mean little without wider social and cultural reckonings about how Irish modernity has generated huge inequalities and further destroyed the land. Even more vitally there would need to be a reckoning with what it means to be colonised on those deeper levels. Throughout popular media it feels like we’re inundated with unsteady declarations, shallow inquiries, and uneasy jokes about what it really means to be ‘Irish’, and yet it seems to perpetually spin in a state of existential confusion beyond everyone’s grasp.

What does our colonised state of being mean for us then if we take Dwayne Donald’s definition of colonialism as “an extended process of relationship denial”? It raises many questions and simultaneously points to wounds that need healing. To whom or what have we been in denial of relationship with? What have the effects of this denial been on them, and on us? What would it mean to step out of systemic and culturally sanctioned states of denial?

The modern/colonial way of relating to anything imagined as being outside the fictive enclosure of the individuated ‘self’ is one based on systemic and cultural habits of extraction and consumption that rely on historically unprecedented levels of violence against human beings, more-than-human beings, and Earth. This colonial mode of being and knowing was implanted in Ireland through centuries of violence, but we have since made it our own and scaled up the project of modernity/coloniality. We suffer profound amnesia about what once existed, accepting colonial narratives that our ancestors were ‘backwards’ and that what exists now is the only way ‘forward’. Through our amnesia we’ve lost any sense of possibilities of other ways of being and relating in reverence and respect of life, and maybe it is this realm of possibilities that the essence of the frantic urge to define ‘Irishness’ is actually compelling us towards. With a decolonizing outlook, we would long ago have stopped and asked how we could proceed with the normalisation of relationship denial and any responsibility within those relationships for so long.

This course dives into some of the predicaments of whiteness, the coloniality of being, and situates the coordinates of a uniquely ‘Irish’ brand of colonialism in Ireland today, interrogating how we got to this point and asking what it might mean to seek decolonial horizons at this historical juncture. It is an invitation to pause and sit with the difficult, uncomfortable, and contradictory things that trouble us while gesturing towards and beginning a re-embodiment of an ‘otherwise’ that is not foreclosed by the violence of separability.

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

  • Please make sure you have the time and capacity for doing a few hours of autonomous work by yourself outside of the designated class session times. All learning materials provided.
  • Having the opportunity to participate in discussion with other course participants during sessions, plus a community Discord server

Who is this course for?

  • People in Ireland; Irish diaspora; anyone with any connection to Ireland; anyone with an interest in Ireland, scholarly, spiritually, or otherwise
  • You have at least a basic understanding that race, whiteness, colonialism (etc.) profoundly shape the modern world in endlessly complex ways, and you have a desire to engage with that complexity in this specific context.

Care note

If you feel that this process of un/learning may negatively impact your health and wellbeing at this time, it may be better not to sign up for now. It is best to be at least somewhat prepared for this undertaking specifically. That said, there is no ‘perfect’ time for which to do work like this and one can never be ‘fully’ prepared. Healing can be painful.

Course guide

Jimmy Ó Briain Billings

Jimmy is a learner, scholar, sociologist, and lover of walking. He was raised by the river Siúr, and like many Irish people has a patchwork of ancestry from Gael to Norman to Norse to Palatine. He runs a decolonial education project called ‘Tuiscint na Talún’, which can be translated as ‘wisdom of the land’ from Gaeilge. Tuiscint na Talún was established to facilitate conversations and learning around what (de)colonization 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.

Guest facilitators

Rowan Rain

Rowan is a sorceress, scientist, & lover of learning, who could generally be described as a wannabe renaissance man weaving together a myriad of interdisciplinary pursuits. Whether through their work in the sorcerous arts, water sciences & collaborative watershed governance, creation in art, song, & craft or through tending deep relationship to spirits, people, & place, Rowan aims to learn how to live well in order to die well, in service to the ever unfolding process of becoming a good ancestor. Originally raised in Dxʷdəwʔabš (Duwamish) territory or what’s commonly called ‘Seattle’, Washington in a Scottish Gàidhlig diasporic community, they currently reside in Southwest Ireland on a permaculture, agroforestry, and rewilding land project. Their ancestors are primarily of Jewish and Gaelic diasporic experience, and they are deeply immersed in the worlds of anti-colonial ancestral recovery & cultural revitalisation.

Rhys MacPhàil

Rhys is a scholar of history, myth, and culture, a learner of Scots & Irish Gaelic, a musician, and person dedicated to craft, skill, and the never ending pursuit of wisdom & memory. They have a particular passion for memory tending, ancestral skills, and the revitalisation of culture & language. Rhys’ tapestry of ancestors are of diasporic experience from the lands known as Scotland, Slovakia, Ireland, England, Germany, and Denmark. They seek to understand the complex collective histories of colonization, intergenerational trauma, and resistance movements of these lands and the communities that call/called them home. They were raised as a settler in the Skagit River watershed in Noo-qua-cha-mish/Upper Skagit territories and it is in these lands that they first learned and engaged in environmental direct action, decolonization, mad + disability justice movements, herbalism, foraging, and ethnobotany. They currently reside in Southwest Ireland on a land rewilding and agroforestry project.

Pricing and sign up

Course fee: €416* (or two payments of €208)

Pay it forward suggested fee: €520 or more

*If this fee contribution is too high for you at this time, there are a limited number of sliding scale spaces available.

Email [email protected] an expression of interest to sign up, or to discuss.

Full payment is required before the course start date.

Following the Dana Economy principles, I kindly ask that you consider the course fee as a gift contribution that makes the sharing of this important work continually possible.

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 for it. This policy is in place to care for the time, effort, energy, and emotional labour it takes me and the guests I invite to formulate and deliver this course.

Due to this request, there are no refunds given except in rare circumstances.

The only exception to this is if the course does not go ahead due to the enrolment quota not being met, participants will be fully refunded. You will also alternatively be offered a place on a future run of the course.

© Jimmy Billings 2021-2023