Representing Irishness in Belfast’s Gaeltacht Quarter

Siun Carden

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

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    Abstract

    This paper examines a place-making project in post-conflict Belfast, analyzing efforts to transform an area which has often been used as a byword for militant Irish nationalism and social deprivation into an inclusive, vibrant tourist destination and cultural hub themed around the Irish language (called the "Gaeltacht Quarter‟). The antagonistic and territorial assumptions about place that characterize divided cities now co-exist with global trends towards the commodification of difference as recreation or spectacle, and longstanding struggles over the representation of contested identities are intertwined with the struggle to compete for international tourism and investment. The proliferation of officially themed quarters in many cities across the world reflects the enthusiasm with which planning authorities have embraced the vision of difference as a benign resource for the creation of tourist revenue. Yet, analysis of „quartering‟ processes reveals that such commodification does not neutralise or evade the political potency of naming, representing and delimiting cultural difference. Indeed, this paper argues that such projects offer a valuable insight into the inseparable roles of physical and representational space as both loci and catalysts of contestation in urban conflicts. Bringing together a wide range of public and private interest groups, projects redefining parts of Belfast as distinctive quarters have been explicitly linked with efforts to deterritorialize the city. The creation of bounded, themed spaces as an attempt to leave behind the ethno-sectarian geographical segregation that parts of Belfast still experience has its particular ironies, but is in many ways typical of contemporary trends in urban planning. The Gaeltacht Quarter exemplifies both the importance and the challenge of representation within cities where culturally distinguishing features have acted as markers of violent division, and where negotiations about how to successfully encompass difference necessarily address multiple local and international audiences simultaneously.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011
    EventInternational Sociological Association RC21 Conference 2011. The struggle to belong: dealing with diversity in 21st century urban settings. University of Amsterdam - Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Duration: 14 Jul 201116 Jul 2011

    Conference

    ConferenceInternational Sociological Association RC21 Conference 2011. The struggle to belong: dealing with diversity in 21st century urban settings. University of Amsterdam
    CountryNetherlands
    CityAmsterdam
    Period14/07/201116/07/2011

    Keywords

    • Urban Studies
    • Cultural Quarters
    • Minority Languages
    • Conflict Transformation
    • Irish Studies

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