This article assesses the identity politics of language in post-conflict Northern Ireland, where language debates at a political level have been encased in questions of identity. However, despite the continued existence of ethnocentric narratives around language, opportunities have emerged for individuals to cross linguistic barriers and challenge the perspective that certain languages ‘belong’ to certain communities.
Current Issues and Developments in Northern Ireland
Instrumentalised Secularity and Religious Futures in Northern Ireland
Liam D. Murphy
Competitive funding by the European Union for community projects in Northern Ireland operates according to a political logic in which some groups and projects (deemed progressive, modern and generally secular) are prioritised, while others (discursively positioned as anachronistic, traditional and religious) are precluded. In this process, EU processes of statecraft seek to instrumentalise grassroots organisations as means to the many ends of a disenchanted, modern EU federation. In turn, overtly religious groups (among them churches, parachurches, and confraternities of various kinds) adapt to these conditions by instrumentalising EU processes and goals to the general end of securing a future place for religiosity in the 'new' Northern Ireland. This paper discusses the intersection of religious objectives and ideologies with that of European modernism in the context of two organisations: the Orange Order and the Divine Fellowship Congregation (DFC). Speci fically, I argue that both associations have developed distinctive forms of practice (the 'Orangefest' and 'Utopia' projects, respectively) that re-conceive what is possible for modern EU-funded initiatives. This adaptation has implications for both sets of institutions, in that each is transformed through articulation with the other.
Culture, identity, and language issues within the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights process
This article explores the use of soft law by those involved in the drafting of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland, drawing in particular on the author's experiences as legal adviser to the Culture, Identity, and Language Working Group of the Northern Ireland Bill of Rights Forum. The article reflects on the extent to which the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities 1995 and other relevant international instruments can be considered as forms of international soft law. It then highlights controversies that have arisen in debates over the content and scope of provisions addressing culture, identity, and language issues in any future Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.
Impacts of Performing Memory in Northern Ireland
This article addresses the function of public presentations of personal memory in a post-conflict context and explores whether they may contribute to a preservation of that conflict. In particular, it examines the reception of performed memories of violence and its aftermath by audiences who have lived through similar experiences. To do this, it will discuss observations from empirical research on a verbatim theatre production in Northern Ireland, Heroes with Their Hands in the Air, that used interviews with relatives of those killed or wounded in an incident that came to be known as 'Bloody Sunday'. Drawing on the responses to the stories portrayed, it argues that, although such performative re-enactment of memory may contribute to an affirmation of collective identity and thus to preserving boundaries, it allows a community of memory to examine past events of suffering and explore impacts that reach into the present.
Tourism and Neoliberal Peace-Building in Divided Societies
Deeply divided societies that have undergone extreme civil violence are often framed as "collectively traumatized" or in a state of "melancholia." Such aetiologies support peace-building initiatives, which seek either to normalize society by forgetting the legacy of violence and starting anew or by engendering societal remembering to work through trauma and bring about societal healing and eventual "closure." Examining the case of Northern Ireland, this article considers how these discrepant processes regarding collective trauma have become bound with fierce ethnopolitical debates and counter-insurgency methods regarding how to promote the region to tourists. I argue that both approaches represent nostrums, which do little to support peace-building and are ultimately complementary with neoliberal designs concerning the relationship among tourism, economic prosperity and conflict-regulation. Discourses concerning "collective trauma" must therefore be viewed as political strategies to shape the nation, which are finally embodied in the tourist journey to "traumatized sites."
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.
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.
Philip McDermott (2012), Migrant Languages in the Public Space: A Case Study from Northern Ireland (Münster: LIT), 320 pp., Pb: €29.90, ISBN: 978-3643800992.
On Conflict, Social Invisibility, and Negative Potentiality
This article analyzes the relationship between conflict, social invisibility, and negative potentiality. Taking its empirical point of departure in fieldwork conducted in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, it illuminates the manner in which people orient themselves toward precarious prospects and potentialities. Little attention has been paid to the orientational effects generated by long-term conflict—that is, the way that violence, as an underlying possibility, an imagined oncoming event, influences social life. Moving from the empirical to the theoretical, and from the specific to the general, the article compares two areas of conflict and orientation toward negative potentiality before moving on to a more general discussion of invisibility and potentiality in social life and theory.
Narrating Experiences of Discrimination and Ethnic Hatred among Polish Migrants in Belfast
Based on one year of ethnographic fieldwork, this article discusses the narratives of perceived discrimination and ethnic hatred of Polish migrants in Belfast. Using narrative theory, it examines the construction of identity of Poles as an unprivileged stratum of the Northern Irish society. Migrants' stories are followed by analysis of the contradictions and tensions between what they construct as their realities and 'objective truth'. Subsequently, the article accounts for these tensions by exploring the links between 'cultural repertoires' of Polish migrants and the ways in which their narratives are presented.