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Editorial

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Jonathan Skinner

Welcome to the thirteenth year of Anthropology in Action publication, and our second with Berghahn. This is the start of volume 13 and, contrary to superstition, we have the great fortune to make it a strong and fascinating start as a double issue on anthropology and policy in Northern Ireland. In this issue, Dominic Bryan (Queen’s University Belfast), an anthropologist and ethnographer of the Orange Order and their parades as well as public rituals in general, has brought together articles from the latest academic and policy research taking place in the north of Ireland. This collection of articles also goes to show how embedded Queen’s University Belfast is as a key institution in Northern Ireland. As a university, Queen’s is not only one of the main revenue earners in Northern Ireland, but is also a centre for the study of the north of Ireland, a place where academics explore and examine social, political and economic developments around them and, crucially, shape, influence and determine the N’orn Irelan’ scene.

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Practising in the Field

A Narrative of Public Health Research

Lindsay Sprague

The following is a narrative of a medical researcher and her experiences in the field. Una Lynch, a resident of Northern Ireland and currently a lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the Queen’s University Belfast, has engaged in extensive public health research using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Though historically, as anthropologists, we have valued the contributions fieldwork has offered to our understanding of culture, personality, lifestyles and behaviours, we seldom encounter fieldwork within other facets of academia. How is ethnography used, therefore, within other disciplines? What contributions has ethnography brought to knowledge outside the borders of anthropology?

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Interpretative Repertoire of Victimhood

Narrating Experiences of Discrimination and Ethnic Hatred among Polish Migrants in Belfast

Marta Kempny

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.

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Michael Murphy, David Belbin, Dennis Brown, David C. Green and Matthew Steggle

The Iron-Blue Vault: Selected Poems by Attila József. Translated by Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner (Newcastle: Bloodaxe, 1999), ISBN 1-85224-503-4 £8.95

Fallen among Scribes: Conversations with Novelists, Poets, Critics. David Gerard (Wilmslow: Elvet Press, 1998), ISBN 0951077686 £7.50

Breaking Enmities: Religion, Literature and Culture in Northern Ireland, 1967–97. Patrick Grant (London: Macmillan, 1999), ISBN 0-333-69829-0, Hardback £45

The Holocaust and the Text: Speaking the Unspeakable. Edited by A. Leak and G. Paizis (London: Macmillan, 2000), ISBN 0-333-73887-X, £15.99

Introduction to Renaissance English Comedy. Alexander Leggatt (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999), ISBN 0-7190-4965-2, Paperback £9.99

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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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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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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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Anthropology Misapplied?

The Culture Concept and the Peace Process in Ireland

Andrew Finlay

This article is animated by a concern that anthropological ideas of culture, particularly the 'old' idea of culture as the way of life of a distinct people, have been misapplied in the government of Northern Ireland during the period of the peace process. Rather than accept disciplinary responsibility for this, I trace the provenance of the notions of culture and identity implicit in the Good Friday Agreement. While people trained in anthropology have been involved in implementing cultural policy, other disciplines—notably law, history and political science—have been more influential in its conception, with only occasional references to anthropology for legitimation. Paradoxically, the influence of the old anthropological concept of culture is a sign of the relative weakness of anthropological influence in government circles. Ultimately, though, anthropological circumspection in this regard might be preferable to the hasty and vainglorious claims of other academic disciplines.

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Between Trauma and Healing

Tourism and Neoliberal Peace-Building in Divided Societies

John Nagle

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."

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Vigilance

On Conflict, Social Invisibility, and Negative Potentiality

Henrik Vigh

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.