Postcard From Dublin

It’s Saturday evening in Dublin. The conference I attended - "Homelessness Theory and Research: Future Directions" - was yesterday and I spent today running around town. I take off again for Philly tomorrow morning.

In my last post I wrote about putting together the commentary for my little piece in the conference. I meant to do another blog session to hone these comments. That never happened. For those who read my last blog post, I’ll follow up with that in a minute.

First I’ll talk a bit about the conference. Thirty or so people, mostly researchers and all very involved with homelessness, mostly in a European context, convening to discuss articles that appeared in the tenth anniversary issue of the European Journal of Homelessness. Sessions were all plenary, meaning that we all sat in a single room in a building off of Merrion Square for the whole session. The people were all smart and incredibly supportive. The former, in academe, is not that unusual, but mixing the former with the latter is and the combination is magical. And that was the tone of the day.

The articles that were reviewed and discussed consisted of two categories. The first batch focused on homelessness in particular European regions (including, curiously, Australia), whose homelessness does not traditionally receive much attention outside its borders. The second batch focused on more general issues. My preference went towards the second group. My favorite paper was Nicolas Pleace’s update on homelessness theory. Engagingly written, immaculately referenced and one that makes me want to go out and read up much of what was mentioned. My favorite session was Nan Roman and Freek Spinnwijn commenting on Mike Allen’s piece on the role of NGOs in research. Much of this focused on translation issues – how does research come to be disseminated and used by policymakers and other agents of change? One of the commentators, Isabel Baptista, called it "the politics of translation." It was a theme that kept coming back around.

My session was last, where I commented on Guy Johnson and Nicolas Herault’s review of Homelessness in Australia. That late in the day, I kept it simple and took pains to be animated in my presentation. My ruminations from the previously blog entry helped; after writing that I had many directions I wanted to go. I meant to post further thoughts, but instead I let my thoughts sit through a long plane ride, some good jet-lag, and some beery conversation on the article. This boiled things down to where, in the presentation, I gave a summary that set up two questions for Guy – for more detail as to what led to homelessness falling from the policy favor it once enjoyed, and more thoughts on the translational difficulties with the Journey’s Home research findings. Guy ran with the questions, some discussion followed, and it was done.

The presentations then flowed into a half hour of general discussion that then flowed into a reception in a beautiful courtyard that then led to a walk to the Ginger Man and then to O’Donoghue’s. I love how it all progressed so seamlessly. I can count at least ten people at the conference with who I have worked with, who I consider a good friend, and who I only get to see once or twice a year. This led to really great conversation and a late night. Details stay in Dublin, but more to avoid excess wonkiness than to create innuendo.

Spent a beautiful day yesterday mostly inside, and my colleague Nora and I spent a rainy day today sightseeing around Dublin. Trinity College, the National Archaological museum, a pub lunch and a hint of shopping before the highlight of the day – a Free Walking Tour of Northside Dublin which featured historical sites and a primer on twentieth century Irish history that I badly needed. Now it’s off to dinner and I’ll be back in Philly for my next blog post.

Stephen Metraux