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Talking Stones

Talking Stones: The Politics of Memorialization in Post-Conflict Northern Ireland

Elisabetta Viggiani
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Talking Stones
    Book Description:

    If memory was simply about past events, public authorities would never put their ever-shrinking budgets at its service. Rather, memory is actually about the present moment, as Pierre Nora puts it: "Through the past, we venerate above all ourselves." This book examines how collective memory and material culture are used to support present political and ideological needs in contemporary society. Using the memorialization of the Troubles in contemporary Northern Ireland as a case study, this book investigates how non-state, often proscribed, organizations have filled a societal vacuum in the creation of public memorials. In particular, these groups have sifted through the past to propose "official" collective narratives of national identification, historical legitimation, and moral justifications for violence.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-408-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Foreword Commemoration City: Shared Futures through Contested Pasts
    (pp. xi-xv)
    Hastings Donnan

    Belfast 2013. The city has changed. It is almost twenty years since the ceasefires and fifteen since the signing of the political settlement that brought widespread and violent hostilities to an end. The city streets that rioters had so often dug up to hurl at the police and military as well as at one another have once again been paved, if not with gold, then at least with expensive pavoirs. Long gone are the hollowed shells of burnt-out buildings and the toothless gape of empty bomb sites. The skyline is punctuated now by concert halls, shopping malls and iconic, landmark...

  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xvi-xvii)
  7. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xviii-xx)
  8. Introduction: Memorials as Silent Extras or Scripted Actors?
    (pp. 1-10)

    One man killed, 153 people injured and over 800 people arrested – this was the price paid in the name of memory a few years back in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, during two nights of clashes over a Soviet war monument. The bloody controversy arose after the Estonian government passed a bill that allowed the removal of a bronze statue of a Soviet soldier that had stood in the centre of the capital since 1947. Estonian nationalists – who regarded the statue as a symbol of the nearly fifty years of Soviet occupation of the country – clashed with ethnic-Russian Estonians...

  9. Chapter 1 Collective Memory and the Politics of Memorialization: A Theoretical Overview
    (pp. 11-26)

    From antiquity, the process of remembering has fascinated humankind because it is central to our ability to conceive reality and to our cognition of the world we inhabit with its physical and logical relations. In the Western world, memory is fundamental to the formation of our identity as a person and to the perception of our uniqueness and difference from others, to the extent that ‘a really successful dissociation of the self from memory would be a total loss of the self – and thus of all activities to which a sense of one’s identity is important’ (Nussbaum 2001: 177)....

  10. Chapter 2 The Armalite and the Paintbrush: A Brief History of Memorialization of the Troubles in Northern Ireland
    (pp. 27-46)

    ‘In proud and loving memory of Francie (Pól Beag) McCloskey. First person to die in the Troubles. Murdered by the R.U.C. at this spot on 14th July 1969. Ar dheis dé go raibh a anam (May his soul be on God’s right side)’. In this way, the town of Dungiven in County Derry/Londonderry lays claim to the grim primacy of the first victim of the Troubles, showcasing this bleak fact in a plaque encased in the pavement of its main street near where Francis McCloskey was fatally injured in a police baton charge during disturbances following an Orange Order march....

  11. Chapter 3 The ‘Landscape of Memorialization’ in Belfast: Spatial and Temporal Reflections
    (pp. 47-65)

    Paramilitary-related memorials to the casualties of the conflict have become a common occurrence in most working-class areas of Belfast to the extent that in some estates one needs only walk a few yards before encountering some form of remembrance. An aerial overview using Google Maps displays the geographical distribution of the 157 memorials analysed in this study (Viggiani 2013). Borrowing theoretical concepts and categorizations from cultural geography and sociology, this chapter investigates the existence of these memorials in relation to the geography of the city and its patterns of residential segregation, social segmentation and sectarian division. In addition, some reflections...

  12. Chapter 4 The ‘Memory Makers’ and the Projection of Narratives of the Troubles
    (pp. 66-86)

    Most people in Belfast pass memorial gardens, monuments, commemorative murals and plaques dedicated to the casualties of the Troubles on their well-trodden ways to school, to work, to the local shops. Some glance at them and spare a thought for a loved relative or friend now gone; some stop and say a prayer; most walk past, too preoccupied with their everyday worries to notice. Although local residents have expressed a variety of individual opinions and reactions towards memorials, which are further investigated in Chapter 9, this chapter examines on a general level the interdependence between individual and collective memory and...

  13. Chapter 5 The Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden: Constructing a Dominant Republican Narrative
    (pp. 87-108)

    According to Halbwachs ([1926] 1950), ‘the prominence, and therefore also the duration, of a collective memory depends on the social power of the group that holds it’; in other words, the group’s ‘social standing … provides an important indicator of its memory’s durability, visibility and power’ (paraphrased in Misztal 2003: 51). Since the early 1980s, the Provisional Irish Republican movement has increasingly consolidated its political power in Northern Ireland, to the extent that Martin McGuinness, ex-Provisional IRA member and leading figure of Sinn Féin, has been Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland since May 2007. Among Republican paramilitary groups, the...

  14. Chapter 6 The IRSP/INLA Teach Na Fáilte Memorial Committee: Constructing a Sectional Republican Narrative
    (pp. 109-127)

    Following what Ashplant, Dawson and Roper postulate in relation to the process of war memories articulation, ‘shared’ or ‘common’ memories emerge ‘when individuals can express and compare their memories with the experience of contemporaries, can begin to formulate a shared language and identify common themes’. They are usually formulated and transmitted through ‘face-to-face groupings, ranging from … gatherings of old comrades to local communities and interest groups’ (Ashplant, Dawson and Roper 2000: 18). However, it is only when these shared memories are articulated in ‘some cultural or artistic form’ such as memorials that they enter the public arena and become...

  15. Chapter 7 The 1913 UVF and the Myth of the Somme: Constructing a Loyalist ‘Golden Age’
    (pp. 128-149)

    We have examined so far how the two main Republican paramilitary groups make use of memory to project a narrative – either dominant or sectional – that legitimizes their historical presence and their military and political actions in Northern Ireland. The following chapters turn to Loyalist forms of memorialization, investigating, in particular, the relationship between memorials and the commemorative rituals that periodically take place around them. Drawing from Smith’s definition of ‘Golden Age’ and its significance in shaping a group’s collective memory (Smith 1997), this chapter investigates how the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), one of the two main Loyalist paramilitary...

  16. Chapter 8 The UDA Sandy Row Memorial Garden: Attempting a Narrative of Symbolic Accretion
    (pp. 150-171)

    The previous chapter has illustrated how the UVF has managed to project a dominant Loyalist narrative of the conflict, both in opposition to Republicanism and ‘middle Unionism’, and how the annual commemorations at three murals in the Woodvale area have been the chosen arena for negotiating changes in the organization’s military and political strategy throughout the peace process, while still maintaining a consistent claim to historical legitimacy and national identification. This chapter looks at how the second major Loyalist paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), has struggled to construct a coherent and lasting political and ideological...

  17. Chapter 9 Dissecting Consensus: ‘Memory Receivers’ and the Narrative’s ‘Hidden Transcript’
    (pp. 172-193)

    The focus of this book so far has been the investigation of the practical means, symbolic systems and ideological reasons behind the erection of memorials to the casualties of the Troubles in many areas of Belfast. Attention has been given primarily to those organizations – specifically paramilitary groups – who have attempted to assert control over the past in order to project competing narratives of historical legitimation, national identification and political justification. Applying the theoretical approach to symbolism and community championed by Cohen (1985) and the critical distinction between ‘public’ and ‘hidden transcript’ posited by Scott (1990), this chapter attempts...

  18. Chapter 10 The Memory of the Dead: Seeking Common Ground?
    (pp. 194-201)

    With these words, the newly elected first Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast, Alex Maskey, concluded his speech on 26 June 2002 in Belfast City Hall, during which he announced Sinn Féin’s decision to ‘take a difficult walk into history’ (Gibney 2002) in an attempt ‘to seek to identify a common ground which we can willingly share so that our commemorations, at this level [of democratically elected government], of those who lost their lives can be a unifying source and a calming influence on the course of future political developments’ (Maskey 2002). A few days later, on 1 July 2002, ten...

  19. Appendix A: List of Memorials
    (pp. 202-217)
  20. Appendix B: Emblems and Flags
    (pp. 218-220)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-246)
  22. Index
    (pp. 247-265)