Ireland and the Popular

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Se relationer på Aarhus Universitet

Sara Dybris McQuaid - Arrangør

Arrangerede panel til konferencen Ireland and the Popular, AAU 7-9 Maj. Conflicts on Parade These three papers would speak (from a distance) to the themes of ‘Attacks on popular culture, culture debates and wars’, ‘The idea of ‘the people’ in politics and history’ and ‘The visual iconography of the popular (in media, the street, museums)’ from the vantage point of the Northern Irish parading tradition. Parading is a very popular, prominent and prolific cultural phenomenon in Northern Ireland. As a politico-cultural practice, however, it is also a very contested part of the public sphere and society at large. Parades in Northern Ireland are mostly ethnically exclusive events, which rehearse a master commemorative narrative composed of a sectarian selection of events, reminding a group of its distinct social identity and historical development in a ritual performance (cf Zerubavel 1995, Connerton 1989). The protestant and loyalist master narrative commemorates a seamless sequence of protestant endurance and deliverance since the 17th century, while the commemorative calendar for nationalists and Republicans emphasise injustice, persecution and resistance, alongside nationalist and republican ideals (McBride 2001). Looking at parades in Northern Ireland, allows us to discuss more complicated notions of ‘the people’, and the place of popular culture in divided societies, as parades literally traverse terrains of political and social conflict. We start from a classical cultural studies position that a) culture is a site of struggle over meaning and b) to understand a particular aspect of contemporary culture we have to understand the complex processes through which it was (and is) constituted and the complex relations within which it was (and is) constituted. Paper 1: Sara Dybris McQuaid: ‘Traditions in Transitions’ On New Year’s Eve 2013, months of talks on ‘Dealing with the past’, ‘Flags’ and ‘Parades’ ended without agreement on how to move towards a reconciliation of positions in Northern Ireland. The failure of the talks illustrates the importance of culture in divided societies, where politics often pivot around whose culture shall be official and whose subordinated, whose history shall be remembered and whose forgotten in a zero sum game (Jordan and Weedon 1995). These struggles are particularly intense in times of transition where traditions, power relations and frames of relevant remembrance are reconfigured. Historically, parading traditions have been important cultural carriers of identity in Northern Ireland. (Jarman 1997). Correspondingly, the marching season has been an arena for politico-cultural struggles and resistance, indexing community relations, relations between society and the state and, recently, the robustness of the peace process. (Bryan 1998). As the contest over meaning is always determined by the context of articulation, this paper examines the role of parades in the current phase of the peace process. Using theories of cultural and collective memory (Assman 2011, Olick 2011, Bodnar 1994), and examples from republican and loyalist parades in North Belfast it is argued that a) there is a lack of trust and a fear of memory collapse in particular communities on the margins of the peace process with a conscious doubling of efforts to articulate the hidden recesses of memory in the current transition. And b) that patterns of ‘competitive commemoration’ in parades should be understood in relation to the increasing dissonance between vernacular languages of conflict and the official post-conflict discourses in Northern Ireland. Paper 2: Anne Baltser Pedersen: Parades – taking political theatre to the streets. Through the use of ritual and symbol theories, this paper examines parades in Northern Ireland as theatrical performances that serve to assert territorial politico-cultural power and presence. Through a reading of the rules and conventions of rituals and theatre performances, the paper weighs up the balance between efficacy and entertainment in parades. Parades are bounded, repetitive, serial events that importantly play out differently in different contexts (across space and time). The manuscript is often an exclusive ethnic composition, which does not resonate across all sections of society, and the performance becomes contested when it – according to the traditional choreography - is brought to stages and audiences who are excluded from the ritual itself, yet actively cast in the role of antagonists. Following Robert Schechner, the paper argues that parades in resonating contexts (single identity areas) are akin to aesthetic dramas, where actors are allowed to focus on symbolic displays rather than strategies to achieve their goals. When traversing sectarian boundaries on the other hand, parades become more like social drama, which ‘has more variables, the outcome is in doubt – it is more like a game or a sporting context…’(1974, 464). However, this reading is further complicated by the fact that even contentious parades have also become ritual performances akin to the Rocky Horror Show and the Mouse Trap. Paper 3: Tanja Gotthardsen: Considering Paths to Peace: the Hibernian Parading Ban 1970-1975 While much of the literature on parades in Northern Ireland examine the Protestant traditions, this paper instead explores a parading tradition emanating from the Catholic, nationalist community, namely that of The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). Whereas the order today presents itself as a demarcated, religious, sociocultural institution with a penchant for pacifism and charity, it constituted a political and paramilitary force du jour in the early 20th century, supporting the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP), while simultaneously engaging around 170.000 members as a ‘friendly society’ and comprising a vehicle for sectarian violence. An examination of this change in the order’s objectives, more specifically in relation to the order’s self-imposed parading ban of the 1970s, serves as the purpose for this historical exposition, to accentuate the transition of its institutional narrative, while emphasising the obtrusive question of how and why a previously political, paramilitary organisation resolved to non-violence in the wake of the Troubles. While the presence of the parading ban from 1970 to 1975 has been established (McNally 1996, n.p.; Jarman & Bryan 1998, 49; Bardon 1992, 681), it has not previously been considered as a source for conflict resolution. Drawing upon the concept of the mobilisation of institutional memory and upon the order’s own publications and interviews, this paper establishes that the ban was indeed motivated by a social proviso, and argues that the transition of the order’s narrative in itself was facilitated by its decreasing political influence following the Easter Rising, the General Election of 1918 and Partition, and ultimately questions whether the efforts of the order was indeed successful and applicable to the wider scope of the Northern Irish conflict.
8 maj 2014


KonferenceIreland and the Popular

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