Observing Observers of the Troubles: Negotiating Collective Histories and Maps

Karin Reenie Elliott

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In this paper, I discuss two different processes for the collective negotiation of narrative histories of ‘The Troubles’ era in Belfast. The first is a tour of the International Wall and Peace Wall murals, entitled ‘Conflict Tours’. The second is my own collective map of British Army observation posts at the Shankill Falls Divide in 1972. Each process uses the material culture of architecture and art to produce memory prompts, designed to absorb and disseminate a variety of voices and political perspectives. Both processes engage artifacts to construct written, visual, and oral cultures of communication.

The initiatives for generating a collective history are experienced differently: the walking tour guide recounts history while moving through urban spaces; the collective map communicates through a coded representation. Each process differs in terms of goals, means, and how it seeks to disseminate this history to its’ public. By participating as a consumer in the tour process, and as a producer in the mapping process, I investigate how narratives are performed and received. My research explores the mechanisms by which group narratives are adapted, whilst mobilising a variety of collective spaces. Member roles are articulated differently in each group. At the International Wall, visitors are passive participants, whilst the collective map is an active participatory process. This paper considers how both informal styles of participation through architecture affect the performance, negotiation, and dissemination of historical narratives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-55
JournalIrish Journal of Anthropology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 06 Jul 2020


  • Architecture
  • Anthropology
  • Surveillance
  • Technology
  • invisibility
  • postmodernism
  • appropriation
  • subversion
  • postcolonialism
  • architectural details
  • urban design
  • strategic networks
  • tactical urbanism
  • military archaeology
  • mapping
  • murals
  • ethnography
  • drawing
  • tourism
  • subaltern studies
  • feminism
  • gender studies
  • power and visibility
  • urban scenography


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