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Commemorating dead 'men': gendering the past and present in post-conflict Northern Ireland

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War is instrumental in shaping and negotiating gender identities. But what role does peace play in dispelling or affirming the gender order in post-conflict contexts? Building on a burgeoning international literature on representative landscapes and based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Northern Ireland between 2003 and 2006, this article explores the peacetime commemoration of the Northern Ireland 'Troubles' in order to explore the nuances of gender. Tellingly, the memorial landscapes cultivated since the inception of the paramilitary ceasefires in 1994 privilege male interpretations of the past (and, therefore, present). Gender parity, despite being enshrined within the 1998 Belfast Agreement which sought to draw a line under almost three decades of ethno-nationalist violence, remains an elusive utopia, as memorials continue to propagate specific roles for men and women in the 'national project'. As the masculine ideologies of Irish Nationalism/Republicanism and British Unionism/Loyalism inscribe their respective disputant pasts into the streetscape, the narratives of women have been blurred and disrupted, begging the question: what role can they play in the future?

Keywords: Northern Ireland; commemoration; conflict; gender; nationalism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Environmental Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland

Publication date: 2008-08-01

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