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The Construction of Racial Essentialism: Intersections of Racial, Gender, Sexual and National Identities.

To register your place please refer to the ‘Registration Details’ section further down this page.

Led by Dr John Wilkins, this guided reading group will meet once a month, online, to discuss a number of key texts exploring the binary categories of Blackness and Whiteness, the power relationship of white supremacy over black, and how our racialised thinking influences our understanding of race and sexual difference and notions of national identity.

The racialisation of the human body arguably began with the enslavement of African people in what was the transatlantic slave trade. This guided reading group seeks to understand the binary categories of Blackness and Whiteness. As the abolitionist medallion created by Josiah Wedgwood above indicates, there is a power relationship of white supremacy over black. How does this power dynamic influence how we think of each other biologically as men and women? Does our biological understanding of race exclude sexual difference; and ultimately how does our racialised thinking influence how we think of ourselves as an Irish Nation? Importantly, participants are encouraged to consider Ireland’s involvement in the Atlantic slave trade, and to consider how that involvement manifests itself in the way we think of ourselves today?

This reading group is open to anyone with an interest in the subject of racial essentialism. It will be of particular interest to artists, curators, cultural and political theorists, art critics and students. Each session will focus on a section or chapter from the selected book, which will be circulated in PDF format in advance of the session. Purchasing the books is not essential to participation but we will provide links to where you can acquire the publications locally if you wish to do so.

The group will consist of approximately 20 participants. Participants must commit to attending all sessions at the time of registration. Some IMMA staff may join individual sessions over the course of the programme.

For further information or to register contact Lisa Moran, Curator: Engagement and Learning via [email protected].


Registration Details

To register, please title your email ‘IMMA Reading Group #4’ and send the following information to [email protected]

  • Name
  • Contact email address
  • Explain why you wish to join the IMMA Reading Group
  • Confirm that you are available to attend all seven sessions
  • Confirm that you are available to read one or two preparatory readings in advance of each session.


All sessions will take place online via zoom and registration is essential, links will be sent following registration.

  • Participation is free.
  • Pre-registration is necessary.
  • The series is open to anyone with an interest in racial essentialism.
  • No prior knowledge of racial essentialism or art/visual culture is required.
  • Applicants must confirm that they can attend all seven sessions at the time of registration.
  • Applicants must be available to read two or three readings in advance of attending each session. Readings will be sent to group members via email one month in advance of each session.
  • Places are limited so early registration is advised.



Enslavement and the Construction of Racial, Gender, Sexual Essentialism

Thursday 25 March, 6.30pm – 8.00pm
Text: Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 1861

Thursday 22 April, 6.30pm – 8.00pm
Text: Neil Jordan, The Ballad of Lord Edward and Citizen Small

Essentialism after Enslavement

Thursday 27 May, 6.30pm – 8.00pm
Text: W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk

Thursday 23 September, 6.30pm – 8.00pm
Text: James Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

Anti-Essentialism, Different Modes of Constructing Identity that Challenge “Authority”

Thursday 21 Oct, 6.30pm – 8.00pm
Text: Brendan Behan, The Hostage

Thursday 18 Nov, 6.30pm – 8.00pm
Text: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Thing Around Your Neck

Thursday 16 Dec, 6.30pm – 8.00pm
Text: Octavia Butler, Kindred


The ‘Construction of Racial Essentialism’ guided reading group has been developed by Dr John Wilkins in collaboration with Dr Lisa Moran, and all seven sessions will be led by John.

Dr. John Wilkins earned his PhD from Trinity College Dublin’s School of English. He is a lecturer and also a researcher of Black, Queer and Gender studies.

Dr. Lisa Moran is Curator of Engagement and Learning programmes at IMMA.

Important Notice


We would like to advise our visitors that our Main Reception area is closed for renovation from 22 April until mid-June. A temporary reception is open on the ground floor next to the original main entrance. There are three exhibitions to visit  Hilary Heron: A Retrospective; Derry Film & Video Workshop and Self: Determination: Artists Commissions. IMMA’s shop, café and gardens are all open.