Talking stones : the politics of memorialisation in post-conflict Northern Ireland

  • Elisabetta Viggiani

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This dissertation is divided into ten chapters. In Chapter 2,1 provide an overview of the theoretical background of my research, outlining the key developments, figures, academic works and trends in the conceptual fields of collective/social memory and the politics of memory. Here, I also discuss methods and ethical issues related to my research. Chapter 3 sets the historical background of my study, delineating the history of the Northern Irish conflict with particular attention to how it has been commemorated and memorialised since the late 1960s to the present day. Drawing mainly upon my database of memorials, Chapter 4 is an exploration of the spatial distribution and temporal occurrence of permanent memorials in the city of Belfast, where I advance some interpretations in relation to the historico-temporal dimension of memorialisation of the Troubles. From Chapter 5 onwards, I will focus on the practical aspects as well as the social, political and ideological reasons behind paramilitary-related memorialisation of the conflict, employing qualitative evidence from my interviews and from attendance at commemorative events. Chapter 5 investigates how and to what purpose paramilitary groups project discrete narratives about the conflict and reflects upon the relationship between individual and collective memory of the Troubles. Chapters 6-9 constitute my case-studies, one for each main paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, and investigate how processes of memorialisation and commemoration act as a linchpin between the micro-level, represented both by single individuals and the local community, and the macro-level of the social ‘mnemonic collectivity’ and the national Catholic/Nationalist/Republican and Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist imagined community. They will also demonstrate how narratives of the past have adapted themselves in light of shifting historical and political circumstances in Northern Ireland. Chapter 6 and 7 investigate the projection of Republican narratives of the conflict - the dominant narrative of the Provisional IRA/Sinn Fein and the sectional/oppositional narrative of the INLA/IRSP, respectively. Chapters 8 and 9 examine the projection of Loyalist narratives of the conflict, focusing, respectively, on the UVF and the UDA. Chapter 10 is concerned with the relationship between ‘memory makers’ and ‘memory receivers’ and, drawing upon a door-to-door survey that I conducted in four areas of Belfast, analyses the degree of success of these collective narratives amongst its social ‘recipients’. Finally, Chapter 1 I draws some conclusions on the process of memorialisation of the conflict in contemporary Northern Ireland and reflects upon the possibility of seeking common ground for the projection of a cross-community, inclusive narrative of the Troubles in the future.
    Date of AwardJul 2011
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorDominic Bryan (Supervisor) & Hastings Donnan (Supervisor)

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