Karin Elliott

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Invisibility Appropriation Subversion: Observation Positions at the Shankill Falls Divide


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Foucault argued that spatial distribution arrangements and social conduct within military barracks gave rise to panopticism and hierarchical observation.  The military ‘means of correct training’ disciplined docile bodies into proscribed modes of conduct.  For Foucault, these procedures were a template for institutions in the modern era to monitor populations invisibly, through inspection, examination, and recording procedures.  For these reasons, I embarked on a study of panoptic surveillance practices at an observation post at North Howard Street Barracks, from the perspective of military observers.  Complex considerations of gender, hybrid identities, postcolonial space, and liminality became evident at this key junction in 1972.

1972 saw an intensification of violence, conflict, injuries and deaths, leading to Operation Motorman at the end of July that year. It was the largest ‘peace time’ deployment of British Troops to any conflict since World War II.  North Howard Street Barracks observation posts were a physical, visible manifestation of this performance of military power, coding spaces and reifying hybrid identities.  As the conflict progressed, they increasingly came under attack, and the observation post and barracks were increasingly fortified.  These highly visible manifestations of power and control agitate and disturb the panoptic model that links invisibility with power.  

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Devlopment Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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