The third of six posts shared by the organisers of a symposium exploring the “Northern Ireland Culture Wars” on Friday 22 November at the University of Ulster, Belfast.
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History, memory and commemoration play a central cultural role in societies throughout the world. Acts of collective remembrance are often important for nation building and the generation of shared senses of identity. However, in post-conflict or transitional societies, the role of history, memory and commemoration is often hotly contested.
This is certainly true of Northern Ireland, which, in recent times, has seen hotly contested debates and social unrest centred on symbols of identity, public commemoration and communal displays of public culture as evidenced by the flag protests, disputes concerning nationalist/republican and unionist/loyalist parades, and the commemoration of former paramilitaries.
This presentations in the Memory and Culture panel explored the role that flags and symbols play in present-centred commemoration rituals in Northern Ireland (Dom Bryan), the remembrance of the 1916 rising in contemporary Irish society (Orla Muldoon), and the role of collective memory and forgetting in loyalist culture (Jim McAuley).
Dominic Bryan is Reader in Social Anthropology at Queen’s University Belfast, where he is also Director of the Institute of Irish Studies and a Fellow at the Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities. He has published extensively on symbols, identity and public space in Northern Ireland.
Orla Muldoon is Professor Psychology at the University of Limerick. She has written or co-authored numerous articles on Northern Ireland and her research interests include the application of the social identity approach to real world social issues, and understanding inter-group conflict and the role of identity in such conflicts.
Jim McAuley is Professor of Political Sociology and the Associate Dean for Research and Enterprise at the University of Huddersfield. His research interests focus on political violence and political identities. He is co-author of the forthcoming book Inside the Democratic Unionist Party: From Protest to Power (Oxford, 2014).