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Emma Dabiri Named 2022 Charles A. Heimbold Jr. Chair of Irish Studies at Villanova University

Emma Dabiri

Villanova, Pa. – Villanova University has selected award-winning Irish author Emma Dabiri as the 2022 Charles A. Heimbold Jr. Chair of Irish Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for the spring 2022 semester. The visiting writer-in-residence program offers Irish Studies students the enriching experience of a close classroom experience with one of Ireland’s finest authors.

Dabiri is an Irish writer, academic, BBC broadcaster, and social media influencer who has written two very successful non-fiction books: Twisted (Harper Perennial, 2020) (published as Don't Touch My Hair in Ireland) and What White People Can Do Next (Harper Perennial, 2021). The Guardian describes Don’t Touch My Hair as “both a richly researched cultural history and a voyage to empowerment,” and the Irish Times calls it “a lament and a call to arms.”

Born in Dublin to an Irish mother (born in Trinidad) and a Nigerian, Yoruba father, Dabiri grew up as a person of color at a time in Ireland when cultural diversity was rare. Her work in the arts, fashion and the media are complemented by her academic teaching and research in African Studies and Visual Sociology.

Interested in the Black Irish experience, histories of oppression, decolonizing black history, and black feminism, she’s written for The Guardian as well as various journals, anthologies, and blogs, and is a columnist for “Hidden Stories” in BBC History Magazine. Dabiri is a regular host on YouTube Originals’  Virtual History and BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Review and Front Row. She also co-presents the BBC’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces and has presented numerous documentaries on both BBC TV and radio, including Journeys in Afrofuturism and EXPOSED: Young Female Photographers.

She received the Cannes Lion Silver Award for her Channel 4 documentary Hair Power: Me and My Afro (2020). She is a trustee of Hugh Lane Gallery and a member of the British Council’s New Arts and Creative Economy Advisory Group. She presented at the British Museum, Oxford University, and Yale and recently read at the Villanova University’s Creative Acts Symposium in Monaco, where she discussed creative art’s influence on Irish narratives, specifically regarding diversity, inclusion, and experience. She currently resides in the United Kingdom and is completing her doctorate at Goldsmiths University, London.    

Dabiri will present a reading as part of the 2022 Villanova Literary Festival on March 15, 2022 at 7 p.m. in the Presidents’ Lounge, Connelly Center on Villanova’s campus. The event is free and open to the public.

On Monday, April 4, 2022, Emma Dabiri will talk with Kimberly DaCosta, PhD, associate professor and associate dean of students, New York University, about the newly formed African-American Irish Diaspora Network on which Dr. DaCosta sits as a board member. Villanova Center for Irish Studies associate director Jennifer Joyce, PhD, will moderate the discussion. "A Conversation with Emma Dabiri" will take place at 7 p.m. in Falvey Library Speakers' Corner. The event is free and open to the public.

The Charles A. Heimbold Jr. Chair of Irish Studies, inaugurated in 2000, has become one of the most prestigious Irish Studies positions in the United States. Former Heimbold Chairs include luminaries from the Irish literary arts including Hanna Khalil, Owen McCafferty, Peter Fallon, Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill, Eamon Greenan, Marina Carr, Vona Groarke, Conor O’Callaghan, Sebastian Barry, Justin Quinn, Claire Keegan, Gerald Dawe, John McAuliffe, Moya Cannon, Hugh Hamilton, Mary O’Malley and Eamonn Wall.

About the Center for Irish Studies: Villanova’s Center for Irish Studies provides collaborative, interdisciplinary courses open to all Villanova University students to study Ireland and its diaspora. Home to of one of the nation’s oldest and largest undergraduate curriculums of its kind, the Center also offers an exchange program with the Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland, and internships at the Jackie Clarke Museum and Library in Ballina, Co. Mayo, among other programs in Ireland. The Center for Irish Studies has been made possible by a generous gift from the Connelly Foundation.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenging and changing world. With more than 40 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.