533.4 Back to the future: Murals and conflict transformation in Northern Ireland

Friday, August 3, 2012: 1:15 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Gregory MANEY , Sociology, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
Lee SMITHEY , Sociology and Anthropology, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA
Murals not only can present imagined futures to reference publics, they also can embody  transformative social change by reframing collective identities. The paper provides both quantitative and qualitative analyses of the recent, rapid changes in murals in West Belfast, Northern Ireland. The study highlights several ways that murals can promote imagined futures by reshaping the visual symbolic landscape, including amplification and suppression of different facets of existing symbolic repertoires, appropriation of elements of external repertoires, innovation, alteration of territorial and/or identity boundaries, articulation, historicization, and mobilization. In many instances, mural makers sought to improve community relations by linking the future with an imagined  past, including an imagined shared past. Mural making involves collective processes of envisioning, collaboration, resistance, consultation, negotiation, and the channeling of resources. In this sense, these efforts provide a microcosm of the peace process in Northern Ireland—dynamic, contested, multifaceted, and constantly re-imagined.