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Dr. Mary Philomena Mullen

Assistant Professor (Sociology)


I am Assistant Professor of Black Studies and am located in the Department of Sociology. I teach on the Trinity elective which introduces students to the epistemology of Black Studies as an intellectual pursuit. This is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary field of knowledge that interrogates historical events that have impacted on those who are racialised as Black, while centring the perspectives of Black people in constructing and deconstructing these events. I lead a research project to recover the lived experiences and sociological impact of African students that came to Trinity in the early 20th century which amplifies our understanding of Blackness in pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland. Through extensive conference work, a process which is highly generative in terms of theory, I have grown research networks across Irish, Northern Irish, Scottish and US universities, where collaboration is developing to look at the local hidden histories of the black population in Ireland, an emerging and exciting site of investigation. I participated in the two-week Black Europe Summer School, in Amsterdam, in July 2023, which examined the contemporary circumstances of the African Diaspora in Europe. I have to date introduced funding to the value of €153,500 to my research, which comprises clear strands of enquiry in the field of Black Studies, critical race, gender, and ethnicity studies, and aligns with the Department of Sociology"s research streams. My research on Africans and Black mixed race in Ireland moves the concept of being Black in Ireland beyond a current research focus that is mostly limited to a migratory lens, to embrace a more in-depth analysis of sociohistorical strands and intercommunal framing of what it means to be Black in 21st century Ireland. I am a member of the Centre for Forced Migration Studies Network (TCD), and my work closely aligns with the transitional justice strand of the work of the Centre for Post-Conflict Justice. I am an Acting Member of Trinity"s Identities in Transformation Steering Committee. My research is strongly motivated by the decoloniality of epistemology and educational practice, and accompanying social activism which underpins Black Studies as a discipline. My work in this regard has included inter alia the introduction of decolonial practice into the courses on which I lecture; international conference presentations; national newspaper opinion pieces in Irish and US media; my role(s) on the advisory board member of Trinity-Inc and Trinity Colonial Legacies Project; and Co-Chair of the Race, Ethnicity, and Equality Working Group (REEWG). I am a co-author of REEWG"s EDI Report 2021/22 and I lead the development of the Action Plan for College. I am a Ministerial appointee to the National Advisory Committee on the Restitution and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage board.
  BLACK and MIXED RACE IRISH   Decoloniality   Irish Industrial Schools
Details Date
Board Member of UNIDPAD 2014 -2024 (International Decade for People of African Descent), and Chair of UNIDPAD's Education subcommittee
Trustee and Company Secretary of AMRI (Association of Mixed-Race Irish)
Member of AFSAI (African Association of Scholars in Ireland)
Member National Advisory Committee on the Restitution and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage board. Jan 2024
Details Date From Date To
Member of the British Sociological Association 2021 2024
Member of the Sociology Association of Ireland 2021 2024
Fetishised spectacles: Partner choice among women of Black and Irish descent who were raised in industrial schools within the Republic of Ireland in, editor(s)Alison Garden and Ruth Coon , Acts of Union: Mixed Marriage in Modern Ireland, Palgrave, 2024, [Philomena Mullen], Book Chapter, ACCEPTED
Philomena Mullen, Defying the exclusionary homogeneity of Irish whiteness: mixed-race children in Irish industrial schools in the twentieth century, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 46, (7), 2022, Journal Article, PUBLISHED  URL
Philomena Mullen, On Being Black, Irish and a Woman, Women's Studies Review, 6, 1999, Journal Article, PUBLISHED

Philomena Mullen, Black baby box[ed], Irish University Review, 50, (2), 2020, p252 - 255, Journal Article, PUBLISHED


Award Date
IRC Government of Ireland Postgraduate scholar 2017
My approach is to apply an autoethnographic lens to my research where possible. My areas of research include: - I research race and the racialised in Ireland, as well as the sociological and historical processes of Africans and those of African descent (like me) in Ireland pre-1990s and the Celtic Tiger period. I am currently in discussion with An Garda Síochána to examine historical files on Black people in Ireland since the foundation of the State. - As a survivor myself, I study the impact of being racialised, along with the intersectional factors of being institutionalised, classed and gendered within the institutional care system in Ireland of the 1940s-1980s. - I examine the perceptions of Blackness, of belonging in Ireland, and of partner choice for Africans and Black mixed race in Ireland. Does phenotype connect both communities to a shared text of Blackness or do intersectional elements such as culture create divisions? Can a politics of connectivity be created which is attentive to how oppressed groups can be positioned and divided through similar interlocking oppressions? How do both groups perceive their sense of belonging in Ireland? what factors impact their choice of partner? Are these factors impacted by their Blackness and/or their sense of belonging in Ireland? - I study the experiences of being a Black lecturer teaching a Black Studies elective to a predominantly white student cohort within the white space of an Irish university. - Decolonial Critiques of the Academy. A decolonial critique challenges not only manifestations of colonialism (such as offered by a post- or anti-colonial approach) but also the underlying epistemologies, knowledge systems, and institutional structures that sustain colonial power dynamics. At the level of the university this involves moving back the rock so as to perceive the epistemic violence inherent in colonial knowledge systems, with a view to challenging hegemonic narratives and promoting alternative ways of knowing and being that centre the experiences and perspectives of marginalised communities. If we consider sociology, for example, a decolonial sociologist would go beyond critiquing colonial legacies to interrogate the epistemological foundations of sociology itself, challenging the universalising assumptions inherent in mainstream sociological theories and methodologies. This might mean decentring Western knowledge systems (Weberian positivism, for example) and incorporating diverse epistemologies and ontologies into sociological enquiry, such as engaging with indigenous cosmologies, oral histories, and community-based research methods that challenge dominant Western paradigms.