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Belfast St Patrick's Day Celebrations and the Act of Forgetting

Trying to Create Cross-community Identities

John Nagle

St Patrick's Day celebrations in Belfast city centre since 1998 have been imagined as providing a common symbol and space to imagine cross-community identities. Celebrations represent an attempt to constitute a social act of forgetting, to abandon a past where public commemorations perpetuated sectarian division. This article charts how the celebrations were contentious as competing groups claimed ownership over its performance. The contested status of the celebrations were largely the outgrowth of political legislation which, rather than facilitating cross-community alliances and identities, preserves the outright difference and absolute cultures enshrined in the notion of 'nationalist' and 'unionist' identities. Moreover, if the performance of memory has helped maintain discrete unionist and nationalist identities, and an abandoning of a past blighted by sectarian conflict is required to create a new, harmonious society, this legislation rendered the role of memory and forgetting ambiguous by stressing both as contributors to reconciliation.

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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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Arnika Peselmann and Nicholas M. Railton

William Logan and Keir Reeves (eds), Places of Pain and Shame: Dealing with 'Difficult Heritage' (London: Routledge), 290 pp., Hb: £80.00, ISBN: 978-0-415-45449-0; Pb: £25.99, ISBN: 978-0-415-45450-6.

Liam D. Murphy, Believing in Belfast: Charismatic Christianity after the Troubles (Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press), 352 pp., Pb: US$42.00, ISBN: 978-1-59460-728-8.

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'Who's the Daddy?'

The 2005 Irish Arm Wrestling Championships

Siún Carden

In November 2005, I was a participant-observer among the spectators at the Irish Arm Wrestling Championships in Belfast. I will analyse that event in terms of the construction of gendered identities through sport, in a local context where the history of sectarian violence has promoted a particular tough, ‘hard man’ version of working-class masculinity which has often been played out through sporting events, themselves routinely structured along broadly sectarian lines and sometimes a focus for friction between communities in conflict.

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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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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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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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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.

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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.