Harris Manchester College, Oxford
Even before entering the little village school in Donaghcloney, I was curious to understand what
was going on in life around me. That wish to read, study and understand has never left me, and throughout life I
have kept an academic attachment.
After Ballymena Academy and undergraduate medical studies at The Queen's
University of Belfast I had a joint appointment with the hospital and with the university as a Senior Tutor and later
Hon Senior Lecturer in psychiatry. During the years of active political engagement I was able to build
up many clinical and academic relationships with colleagues not only in the UK and Ireland, but across Europe, in the
Americas and in South Asia.
When I retired from clinical psychiatric practice in 2010, I left behind those university
attachments which were more clinically focussed, but felt the need for an academic home where I could continue and
indeed focus my interest on understanding how and why individuals and groups of people fall into ways of thinking
and behaving that lead to apparently intractable conflict. Growing up in Northern Ireland during 'The Troubles'
I kept asking myself why it can be so difficult for communities to think in different ways and espouse different
values without falling into aggression and even physical violence that serves neither their own best interests nor
the fundamental need for relationships?
Harris Manchester College has a history of promoting liberal dissenting
religious thought and study since the mid-eighteenth century. It has long provided a community where students
and academics are free to pursue their interests in theology, law, politics, economics and psychology. I have
found at this Oxford College an academic home where I can follow my interests as a Senior Research Fellow. I
am currently working with Scott Atran, Rich Davis, Harvey Whitehouse and other colleagues at the College, in the Department
of Anthropology and at the Centre for International Studies (Department of Politics and International Relations) as well as the
wider University and elsewhere to develop a Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict (CRIC) based at the College.