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'Rearranging the ground': public and private space in Belfast, Northern Ireland

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This article examines imaginings and uses of place in the city of Belfast which challenge the conventionally gendered and sectarian place discourses dominating politics and society in Northern Ireland. These alternative imaginings are articulated in two artworks, 'Home', by Mary McIntyre, and 'Street Signs', by Aisling O'Beirn. I present readings of these pieces with reference to concepts of public and private which signify through socio-political, geographical and psychological orderings of space. Focusing on the construction of public and private space allows me to approach the issue of sectarian territorialisation in Belfast obliquely, while recognising its physical and psychological potency and the complexity of its operations; further, it facilitates the exploration of how gender and memory are made to matter spatially, in general and specifically in Belfast. This analytical perspective clarifies certain exclusions and oppressions inherent in the framing of space, but also offers understandings of how these may be destabilised, allowing unorthodox or marginal identities and practices to emerge as co-constituents of space.
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Keywords: gender; memory; public and private space; public art; sectarian geography

Document Type: Research Article

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

Publication date: 2008-10-01

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