The (im)material monument: a practice-based engagement with Troubles commemoration

  • Gail Ritchie

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Recent turns in International Relations mark a shift towards a more reflective and interpretive practice but it has some way to go before it moves away from the hegemony of text-based analysis and empirical evidence. Practice Based Research provides an alternative to this by working with multifaceted methodologies, eclectic entanglements and sensory subversions to pose previously unasked questions about the political. The im/material monument is a practice based engagement with Troubles commemoration in Northern Ireland. It utilises a thinking through making process to imagine a Troubles memorial/s where issues such as names, form, location and scale are addressed through making, speculation and reflection. The ‘epistemic objects’ produced as part of this Practice Based Research include models, drawings and ephemera which are experimental, associative, unresolved and non-linear. I argue that just as the Troubles are not conclusively over, so any Troubles memorial should not suggest foreclosure.

The thesis shares the outcomes of the creative research - the making - because Practice Based Research is not practice alone but also the textual analysis and reflection that translates the objects into wider epistemological domains. Artistically, therefore, this project is one of creative investigations that aim to trouble the established parameters of commemorative practice and unsettle the hegemony of text-based analysis in International Relations. I do this in three ways: i) through the production of material artefacts; ii) through the insertion of reflections on the creative process as they took place; and iii) through critical and creative engagement with relevant literature. Based on historical precedents, I set out (after Foucault) an alternative genealogy of memorial forms to show how my ideas for a Troubles memorial envisage plurality, ambiguity and immateriality. These ideas move from the personal to the local and the international. Following Derrida, a hauntological approach is taken throughout. The research in this thesis, therefore, enacts the plurality of approach and the assemblage of methodologies that Bleiker (2001) and others have stated is necessary to bring the arts into International Relations on its own terms and according to its own logic.

Please note that this thesis includes the full text pdf as well as supplementary content. This supplementary content is titled as Appendix 1. This comprises (i) a film called The (im)material monument (ii) brochure (Naughton Gallery) (iii) image list with 35 images ((im)material monument image list).
Date of AwardDec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsAHRC Northern Bridge DTP
SupervisorDebbie Lisle (Supervisor), Margaret O'Callaghan (Supervisor) & Christopher Jones (Supervisor)


  • Troubles
  • visual art
  • memorialisation
  • sculpture
  • materiality
  • commemoration
  • memory
  • hauntology
  • genealogy

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