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The Anthropology of Ritual

Monitoring and Stewarding Demonstrations in Northern Ireland

Dominic Bryan

Rioting in Northern Ireland sometimes appears endemic. The control of public space, through the utilisation of rituals and symbols, has played a significant part in the violent conflict and has remained a central issue since the 1998 Multi-Party Agreement institutionalised the peace process. This article draws upon ethnographic research and anthropological models of ritual to explore policy interventions in conflict resolution over potential public disorders. In particular, it looks at the use of monitors, mediators and marshals at parades and demonstrations and describes how anthropological fieldwork has played a role in developing projects and policies that offer solutions to a cycle of intercommunal street violence.

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Dominic Bryan

In the summer of 1985 the BBC entered a period of crisis. It had planned to broadcast a documentary called At the Edge of the Union which featured extensive interviews with two of Northern Ireland’s more outspoken political figures, Martin McGuinness, senior Sinn Féin politician and someone who has admitted membership of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Derry, and Gregory Campbell, an outspoken member of Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Unaware of the existence of the yet to be broadcast programme, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made a speech in Washington arguing that the media should not give terrorists ‘the oxygen of publicity’. After Rupert Murdoch’s paper, The Times, linked the stories, the Home Secretary at the time asked for the programme to be banned, the Board of Governors of the BBC attempted to intervene, and the system of editorial control of the BBC spiralled down into disarray. Rupert Murdoch was busy launching Sky Television so undermining the BBC was convenient but for the BBC, covering Northern Ireland, which its journalists and documentary makers were always keen to do, had always been a problem. Much editorial policy within the organisation had developed specifically to deal with the precarious position of the state in the six northeastern counties of the island of Ireland.

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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.