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Kirk Simpson and Hastings Donnan

In this article we focus on Protestant and Catholic relationships in the borderlands of south Armagh in Northern Ireland and north Monaghan in the Irish Republic. Studies that emphasise Protestant and Catholic relationships at the urban or macro level have done little to unravel the complex processes of relationship-building that operate along the border, where Catholic and Protestant not only live in close proximity to one another and cooperate in a range of everyday activities, but where in the recent past each 'side' has used ethnic identity to select targets for assassination. The complexities of intercommunal dynamics in rural border areas and the ways in which they impact upon relationships between border Protestants and Catholics are discussed, with particular reference to moments that have significantly shaped their political subjectivity, most notably the sectarian violence that erupted in 1969 and which was formally brought to a close by the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Such complexities, we suggest, muddy the over-dichotomised view of the Irish borderlands that often informs public policy making.

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Murphy Out of Place

Ethnographic Anxiety and Its 'Telling' Consequences

Liam D. Murphy

In Belfast, Northern Ireland, as elsewhere, myriad problems of epistemology and research design confront ethnographers entering the field for the first time. While these often remain a permanently taxing wellspring of frustration and anxiety, their apparent resolution through experience can occasionally lull researchers into a false sense of security in the context of social interaction with field respondents. By exploring an instance in which the author neglected to apply his understanding of the important Northern Ireland phenomenon of 'telling', the article shows how method and epistemology should always be borne in mind during fieldwork situations—even those implicitly discounted a priori as nonethnographic. While such relaxation of self-awareness may precipitate various blunders and ethnographic faux-pas, it also opens up spaces of critical inquiry into the collaborative constitution of selves and others in field situations, and refocuses the ethnographer's awareness of his positioning as an outsider in webs of social activity.

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Policing, Policy and Practice

Responding to Disorder in North Belfast

Neil Jarman

Rioting and street disorder have been a recurrent problem in Northern Ireland over the course of the peace process. This article reviews a range of the responses that have been developed to try to address the disorder and to better understand the process of the creation and development of policy. The article starts from interpretation of policy as a process of social relations involving the interaction of different sectors of society and it discusses how government and community actors have responded in different ways to the violence, but over the course of time have come to a broadly shared understanding of the most appropriate means of managing the conflict.

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Richard Kirkland

Few aspects of Northern Irish political culture are as denuded as those that attempt to locate and understand the terrorist act. From the exasperation of Margaret Thatcher’s outburst at the time of the Hunger Strikes that ‘it is not political, it is a crime’, to the exhausted freedom fighter/terrorist binary opposition recently pressed back into service by Peter Mandelson, terrorism has consistently been perceived as an act that defies the realm of civic discourse. Indeed, it has been the traditional role of language in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist atrocity to present itself as unable to capture the overwhelming materiality of the event itself. What, so the argument runs, can words offer in the face of such violence? Understood as such, every terrorist outrage becomes unspeakable.

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Robin Whitaker

Many feminists have been troubled by questions of friendship in ethnographic research. For some critics, such assertions elide power imbalances, invoking a 'sisterly identification' built on essentialist models of gender. In this article I combine insights gained from partisan ethnography in the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition with feminist theory to argue that the problem lies not with claims to friendship as such, but with a naturalized model in which friendship is treated as a power-free zone. A more politicized approach to friendship offers analytical tools for thinking about methodological, epistemological, political and applied problems in feminist anthropology and politics and to wider questions about the relationship between intellectual and political life, critique and solidarity.

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Playing with Teaching Techniques

Gamelan as a Learning Tool Amongst Children with Learning Impairments in Northern Ireland

Jonathan McIntosh

This article examines gamelan as a community musical tool in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. In particular, the article demonstrates how traditional pedagogic practices are changed in order to suit the needs of those who learn gamelan. A gamelan is an orchestra that includes metallophones (large glockenspiel-like instruments), gongs and drums. Originating from Southeast Asia, particularly from the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali, gamelan ensembles have long been used in the teaching of ethnomusicology in academic institutions and for purposes of applied ethnomusicology, as a musical tool, in the wider community. In these contexts, a gamelan instructor acts as a 'mediator' (Naughton 1996: 16) in the transmission of gamelan knowledge; mediating not only between the music and the learners, but also between the role of gamelan in its original sociocultural context and its newly adopted milieu. Drawing upon my experiences as a gamelan instructor, in particular, teaching children with visual and hearing impairments, I demonstrate how traditional teaching techniques are adapted to facilitate the learning of gamelan in the Northern Irish context.

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Lorenzo Cañás Bottos

Based on fieldwork undertaken in 2004–2005, I analyze how the Irish border has been constructed, represented, challenged, and imagined by both the state and borderlanders as a means to discuss processes of constructing sovereignty. I focus on the concept of “assemblage” to integrate and highlight the tensions and contradictions between different levels of analysis: the juridical, the academic representation of the border, and the memories and practices of borderlanders. I argue that sovereignty, rather than a claim to be taken at face value by states, is the emergent property of the combination of a variety of forces, forms, and practices involved in the making of borders, and that its very enactment also produces anti-sovereign effects.

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Social Circus and Applied Anthropology

A Synthesis Waiting to Happen

Nick McCaffery

This article explores the potential for developing anthropological investigation in the field of social circus – in particular with those projects that work with individuals living with disabilities. The author uses examples of research in Belfast to argue that the applied nature of anthropology is the ideal mechanism for analysing and comparing the emerging field of social circus projects around the world. In this case, anthropological tools were utilised that had a direct effect, not only on understanding the phenomenon of social circus projects but also on raising the levels of quality, leading to a direct improvement on services provided.

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Beyond the Academy

Applying Anthropological Research, A Case Study of Demonstrating Impact in the U.K. 2014 REF

Neil Jarman and Dominic Bryan

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework sought for the first time to assess the impact that research was having beyond the boundaries of the university and the wider academic sphere. While the REF continued the approach of previous research assessment exercises in attempting to measure the overall quality of research and teaching within the higher-education sector, it also expected institutions to evidence how some of their research had had 'an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia' (REF 2012: 48). This article provides a case study in how researchers in one U.K. anthropology department were able to demonstrate the impact of their work in the public sphere successfully as part of this major audit exercise.

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Living Heritage and Religious Traditions

Reinterpreting Columba/Colmcille in the UK City of Culture

Máiréad Nic Craith

In 2013, Derry~Londonderry became the inaugural UK City of Culture. Given tensions between national and unionist versions of history, the title generated considerable debate on the location of Derry~Londonderry's culture within a UK and/or Irish context. All this had implications for the character of Columba/Colmcille, who had been appropriated by competing secular and religious versions of history in the past and who featured prominently in the year-long celebrations. This essay explores the layering and cultural appropriation of the narrative of Columba/Colmcille over the centuries and the reshaping of this narrative in anticipation of the year of UK City of Culture. It contextualises the emergence of a fresh narrative in the new political context which seeks to redefine the city as a common heritage space for a previously divided people.