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Gisele O'Connell

Research Postgraduate (PhD)

Research Postgraduate (PhD) in the Department of Geography


I am a political geographer with interests broadly in geopolitics, creative geographies of the body and performance, (post)colonialism and medical topics involving disease and security. My first class honours degree in Politics and Sociology from Maynooth University Ireland, was subsequently followed by a 65,000 word M.Litt thesis in the Department of Geography in the same university, supervised by Professor Gerry Kearns and Dr Alistair Fraser, and was passed without further amendment by Professor Hester Parr (Glasgow University) and Dr Ronan Foley (Maynooth University). This thesis, broadly defined, explored the intersections between the geopolitics of blood, and medical themes of HIV/AIDS vulnerability. Part of this research on the creative practices of AIDS remembrance through inner-city quilting groups has been reformulated as a peer review article in development.

Twitter: Geog_Giselle

Current Research (2018 - 2022 NUI Travelling Scholar Awarded Ph.D Project)

My current research builds on my experience as a political geographer and as a performer to explore whether creative dance practice, as well as movement expression, can play a role in articulating the geographies of Rwanda’s post-genocide transition, and, significantly, whether dance can help us identify the emergence of new identities and forms of nation-building in Kigali’s post-genocide and rapidly changing urban environment. Through a situated ‘deep-mapping’ of dance practices and performances that work across theatre, festival and memorial landscapes, as well as partnering with local performing arts centres and organisations, this thesis aims to explore the complex geographical matrix of memory, genocide, and socio-spatial transformation in Rwanda’s capital city. As such, it is situated within a nascent field of creative political geographies that brings the domains of dance and performance to conceptual articulations of state, space and power, particularly in the postcolonial context. In doing so, the research will interrogate the following key areas:

To explore in what ways the affective and performative geographies of dance can reconfigure the landscapes and space-times of genocide in the aftermath of trauma; to explore how the 'memory-work' of dance festivals and performances can add to, or complement formal sites of memory and commemoration and to contribute to the ongoing peace and reconciliation initiatives in Rwanda.

My own interests in dance relate to an expanded aesthetic field but I have trained primarily in Irish dance with An Comhdhail having danced competitively for the City of Dublin Championships and the South County of Dublin Championship National Oireachtas in 2016 and 2012 and have also worked with Irish dance artists and choreographers including Breandan De Gallai (ex-principal of Riverdance), Catherine Young (Contemporary and African Dance), Sibeal Davitt (Sean-Nos) and Olwyn Lyons (hip-hop) on numerus dance classes and projects performed in theatre environments, as well as in open-air street festivals.

The research is thus partially informed by my own positionality as someone coming from a postcolonial state that has been attempting to deal with its own fallout from centuries of political-geographic conflict, most notably in the context of Northern Ireland. As such, it hopes to cultivate knowledge-exchange networks grounded in a set of shared histories and experiences, while also broadening Irish frameworks for thinking about conflict and reconciliation, through a richer and wider set of engagements with other states.

Grants and Awards
  • 2019 - Durham University Postgraduate Conference Grant - £500.00
  • 2018 - National University of Ireland Travelling Doctoral Studentship- €96,000.00
  • 2017- John Hume Social Sciences Doctoral Fellowship €92,000.00 (Declined)
  • 2017 - Irish World Academy of Music and Dance Scholarship- €1000.00 
  • 2016- Kitchin and Collins Maynooth University Travel Grant - €600.00
  • 2013 - Washington Ireland Program for Service and Leadership - $12,000.00
Professional Associations
  • Geographical Society of Ireland
  • American Association of Geographers
Research Clusters
Selected Presentations and Invited Talks
  • Connell, G. (2019 -Scheduled) 'Deep-Mapping Dance in Post-Genocide Rwanda' EUGEO European Congress of Geography, for Organised Panel on: Geographies of Genocide, Ethnocide and International War-Crimes. NUI Galway, Ireland. [International Peer Reviewed Conference]
  • Connell, G. (2019- Scheduled) 'Academic Freedom in Historical and Theoretical Perspective.' for Organised Panel on Academic Freedom and Researcher Mobility. EUGEO European Congress of Geography, Galway, Ireland. 
  • Connell, G. (2019-Scheduled) 'Vital Geographies of the AIDS Memorial Quilt: Making Place for AIDS Commemoration in Ireland' 'Queer Memorial Activism: Place-Making, Powerplays and Positionality' Sexuality and Space Sponsored Session. AAG American Association of Geographers Conference, Washington DC.
  • Connell, G, (2018). 'Dancing Dispossession: Movements of Marginality and Memory in Post-Genocide Rwanda' Our Dance Democracy: Dance, Performance Culture and Civic Democracy. Liverpool Hope University. Invited Guest Speaker.
  • Connell, G. (2018) 'The Geopolitics of Dance in Post-Genocide Rwanda' IPRC Irish Postgraduate Research Conference, Dublin City University. 
  • Connell, G (2017) ‘Performances of Precarity in Irish AIDS Quilts’ Vital Geographies Session. AAG American Association of Geographers, ​Boston. United States [International Peer Reviewed Conference]
  • Connell, G. (2017) 'Counter-Cartographies of Place in a Community AIDS Quilt.' Conference of Irish Geographers. University College Cork.
  • Connell, G. (2017) 'The Geopolitics of Blood' Foucault in Ireland: Transdisciplinary Investigations. [Co-organised by Professors Gerry Kearns and Stuart Elden] Royal Irish Academy.
  • Connell, G. (2016) 'Making Place for AIDS Remembrance in Ireland' New Perspectives for the Humanities. Maynooth University.
  • Connell, G. (2015) Precarious (In)Visibilities: Theorizing the Spaces of AIDS. ICGG International Conference of Critical Geography, Ramallah, Palestine. [International Peer Reviewed Conference]
  • Connell, G. (2015). 'Spatializing Precarity and AIDS.' Precarious Geographies Conference and Workshop, Royal Holloway, University of London.
Selected Publications

Book Reviews

Other Publications and Posts


Durham University 2018/19 

(Lecturing, Workshop Coordinator, Field Trip Teaching Assistant and Tutoring)


Maynooth University 2016/17 (Tutoring)

  • L2- International Relations
  • L2 -Research Methods for Politics and Sociology
  • L1 -Human Geography

PCTL- Professional Certificate in Teaching and Learning for Higher Education