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Roads to the Nation:  a symposium on the history, culture and theory of roads

The School of English will host a distinguished gathering of scholars on 2nd and 3rd May 2013, in a symposium designed to develop our understanding of the role of infrastructure in British-Ireland relations from the eighteenth century to the present, with a particular focus on Wales.

Road building and road improvement projects are a key marker of Welsh and Irish modernity. Often thought of in terms of oppressive systems of state or colonial authority, roads facilitate the flow of people and ideas between marginal communities and often provided the routes along which national and regional identities were formed. The contradictory roles played by roads in relation to nationality — emblems and operators of state or imperial authority; mobilisers of intimacy and exchange; routes along which transnational trade and enterprise could flow —provide rich materials for critical reflection.

A core group of contributions to the symposium come from historians and critics engaged with the transport revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The longer legacy of eighteenth and nineteenth-century routes is a matter for debate also, in particular in relation to the cultural imprint of road systems. Such legacies and imprints may be identified and analyzed via contemporary creative practice, which forms a key thread in the symposium, and which will afford critical commentators the opportunity to reflect upon their own scholarly approaches.

Hosted by Professor Claire Connolly on behalf the Wales-Ireland Research Network. Funded by the Irish Research Council with additional support from the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences and Cardiff University.