Believe it or not, ETSU and Northern Ireland have a lot in common.

For Appalachian Studies students, this connection might seem like old news. However, for a great deal of local residents, long-term settlers of Upper East Tennessee and Irish-Scots descendants, we may learn that the similarities strike us right at home.

Liam Campbell
(Photograph contributed / ETSU)

At ETSU this semester, Irish scholar and Ulster professor Dr. Liam Campbell will be sharing four interdisciplinary lectures regarding his homeland of Northern Ireland and its connection to Southern Appalachia. The first, entitled, “A Sense of Place: Ecology, Community and the Human Spirit,” will take place at 7 p.m. on Feb. 1 in Ball Hall room 127.

Campbell has been named Basler Chairholder of Excellence for the spring 2018 semester at ETSU. His connection with our university began two years ago through teaching in Ireland for the Study Abroad program. When offered the position at ETSU, Campbell gladly accepted.

“This relationship goes back a while. I met Professor Ron Roach and Professor Jane MacMorran in Ulster with their Study Abroad course…I had never been to America before, even though I had been teaching Americans…I jumped at the chance,” said Campbell.

The courses Campbell is currently offering this semester are entitled, “Scots Irish in Appalachia,” and “Northern Ireland: Negotiating Peace, Heritage and Identity.”

Upon speaking with Campbell, I couldn’t help but notice that he pronounced Appalachia the Southern (and hopefully, correct) way. The righteous pronunciation of Appalachia as Appa-LATCH-uh might not seem like a big deal to our Northern neighbors, but as Campbell defined, “It certainly rolls off my tongue easier.”

Those of us who are indigenous mountain peoples may find some particular interest in the comparison of landscapes between our area and those across the pond. The surrounding landscape in our little pocket of the New World reflects that of the Ulster variation; in fact, it is one and the same.

As Campbell mentioned, “The Appalachians are the same range of mountains that I come from, in Northern Ireland…I’m still living in the same mountain region.”

His first lecture, “A Sense of Place: Ecology, Community and the Human Spirit,” will be dealing with, “…the scale of belonging. My thesis is that we belong in smaller communities…you can’t feel that you belong with 2 million people. [I’m looking at] the scale of that—the consummate parish and parochial identity in Ireland,” Campbell said.

Aside from the discussion of identity, in this lecture, Campbell will also discuss Northern Ireland’s environmental pressures and the way that they differ from our own.

Campbell will also offer the following lectures this semester: “Map-making: Landscape and Memory,” on March 1, “Nature and Culture in Ireland: The Last Wolf to the First Eagle,” on April 3, and “An Ireland Post-Brexit: Between Europe and America,” on April 24.

These lectures are free and open to the public, so come, learn and be proud of your home and heritage.