Commemoration in Conflict: Comparing the generation of solidarity at the 1916 Easter Rising Commemorations in Belfast Northern Ireland and the 1948 Nakba Commemorations in Ramallah, Palestine

Brendan Browne

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Abstract

This article takes as its focus the generation of solidarity through the commemoration of key and defining moments in modern Irish and Palestinian history, namely; the 1916 Easter Rising and the 1948 Palestinian Nakba. The paper explores the means by which annual commemorative rituals that take place in areas experiencing conflict, or a period of transition away from conflict, are constructed in such a way as to strengthen social cohesion between groups for whom the past is relevant. Reflecting on data gathered through semi-structured interviews with key respondents and ethnographic observations made over a three year period, (2010- 2013), the article reveals a more cohesive approach to commemoration in areas where the level of on-going conflict remains particularly high (Palestine) and more fragmented and disjointed ritual activity when the commemoration takes place against the backdrop of relative peace and stability (Northern Ireland). In accounting for the difference in approach to constructing commemorative events against a conflicted or transitional background, the conclusion is reached whereby it is suggested that the relatively peaceful political climate, characterised through a reduction in violence with a once hostile ‘other’, permits for the emergence of heterogeneity, with rival factions permitted space to promote alternative interpretations of the past and different visions for the future through the highly public median of the commemorative ritual. Far from being events that generate a sense of social cohesion between groups for whom the past is relevant, commemorative rituals which take place in a hostile environment can be arenas of dissent; opportunities for marginalised factions to challenge the often state-sponsored hegemonic narrative, thus revealing the limits to the solidarity thesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-163
JournalJournal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology
Volume4
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Keywords

  • Commemoration, Irish Republicanism, Palestinian Nakba

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