Mark Cooney was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. He attended University College Dublin where he studied law and met his wife. They came to the United States in 1980. He has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Virginia and a Doctor of Juridical Science from Harvard Law School. Mark is a full-time professor in Sociology at the University of Georgia and adjunct at the law school. He specializes in crime, law and deviance. He just published his third book, Execution by Family: A Theory of Honor Violence. Mark lives in the Historic Dearing Street neighborhood in Athens, with his wife Mary Kelly.
What do you love about your job?
I love the freedom of it, the ability to work on anything I want, anything that attracts my interests. As a result of this, I have worked on many aspects of law and conflict and violence over the course of my career. I continue to work on new subjects, and I can pick those myself. No one tells me what to do. As long as I turn up and teach my classes, the requisite days, those are the only real obligations I have, you know or the occasional faculty meeting. So, there is wonderful freedom in what I do. It is just a great life. And it helps greatly that I love teaching. Large freshman classes and small graduate seminars — they all present enjoyable challenges.
If you could see any band, anywhere, who would it be and where?
It would probably be The Pet Shop Boys. Where? I don’t know…Rio!
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
Probably Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand because we have never been there, and it is a part of the world that I am particularly interested in. One of the things I have studied is violence, and I have always been very interested in, not just the Vietnam War, but also the Cambodian Genocide. It is something I have read quite a bit about, and I would really like to go there and see some of the sites and see how the country has come out of that, the dreadful catastrophe that they underwent.
What is your favorite restaurant in Athens, and what do you love there?
The National. I like the hangar steak, and we always have the hummus starter. I like their cocktails too.
If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and where?
Yuval Noah Harari, the Israeli historian who has written two main books Homo Deus and Sapiens, and they are kind of large histories of the human species. He is really a visionary thinker, but he writes in a really straight forward, very lucid, very humorous way. The range of references and the extraordinary amount of knowledge he is able to marshal is really amazing. We might go back to lunch at the Eiffel Tower where Mary and I had our anniversary lunch a few years ago. That was wonderful because it was a wonderful city and a beautiful view. Window seat at the Le Jules Verne.
If you could have a billboard anywhere, saying something, what would it say?
You only go around once.
What advice would you give your younger self now?
The only advice I think I would give would be to remind myself that life is precious and time is short. Don’t waste it.
What is your favorite thing to do in Athens on a day off?
I like to play golf and Mary and I like to go for walks.
What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know?
I was swapped at birth. So, my mother and her sister went into the same “nursing home” in March of 1955 and they both delivered a baby within four days of each other. And, in those days if you were a middle class woman in Dublin, you stayed in this nursing home after giving birth for about six weeks to recover. I think there is actually a very good chance that I was swapped with my cousin. My mother and her sister were having champagne or something celebrating and they got mixed up and like which one is it you know? They both look the same anyways. The reason I say this is my cousin was much more like my father for example in temperament and they were very close until my father died two years ago. They were almost kind of like best friends, and I was never on the same wavelength. I am much more like his father. I even look like him. His father was tall and skinny like me and he was more the same temperament. I think there is a good chance I was swapped.
What three words or phrase comes to mind when you think of the word “home”?
Comfort, elegance and serenity.