The Centre for Media Research and Edge Hill University are hosting two symposia to discuss the fraught issues of representation, culture and identity in Northern Ireland.
The region is rapidly losing the status of being a post-conflict society, as well as its reputation for offering a model of conflict resolution. Recently the Community Relations Council’s Peace Monitoring Report (2014) has pointed to deepening sectarian division and growing mistrust, the evidence for which is palpable.
In recent times there have been street protests fuelled by working class unionist alienation and sporadic violence from dissident republicans. The promised peace dividend has failed to materialise and in its place is austerity imposed from above, which poses the danger of already antagonist communities being forced to compete for limited and diminishing resources. Such straitened times are proving fertile ground, not only for sectarianism, but racism also, with Northern Ireland’s growing immigrant communities suffering a dramatic rise in the incidence of hate crimes. Meanwhile the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage have revealed the depth of dispute that exists between conservative and liberal constituencies in the region. It seems that just as old antagonisms die-hard, new battle-lines are emerging in the ‘new’ Northern Ireland.
These conflicts are arguably exacerbated by a largely ineffective political system centred on an assembly that has little power and which is constructed to recognise yet not mediate nor resolve sectarianism. Instead it has institutionalized division and difference while deliberately marginalizing moderating voices of opposition. This has become central to the construction of a fractured, factionalized civil society dominated by political agendas that, within the construct of the Peace Process, has produced an intellectual stagnation. Those critical of the divisive outplaying of the 1998 agreement, in many sectors of political and intellectual life, have become seen as “Cassandra” figures.
It is within this context that we invite contributions to the symposia that consider questions of representation, culture and identity. These concepts were central to the conflict in Northern Ireland’s past, and they were integral to the peace process and remain at the centre of political discourse in the region today.
How are representation, culture and identity constituted and contested in contemporary Northern Ireland? And how might we most usefully think about and configure them today and for the future?
The first symposium will be scheduled in September and will take place at the University of Ulster’s Belfast campus. The second is scheduled for January next year and will take place at Edge Hill.
At this stage we are looking for expressions of interest and invite contributions (not exclusively) in the areas of:
If you would like to contribute contact Stephen Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org