Accepted paper:

The culture concept and the peace process in Ireland


Andrew Finlay (Trinity College, Dublin)

Paper short abstract:

Starting with the concepts of cultural identity, pluralism and rights used in the Irish peace process, this paper explores the anthropological origins of consociationalism: crucial in the Irish case, this is now the 'international community's' preferred means of conflict resolution.

Paper long abstract:

This paper traces the provenance of the notions of culture and identity implicit in the peace agreement signed in Belfast on Good Friday 1998, and subsequently ratified in referenda in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Anthropological ideas of culture, particularly the 'old' idea (Wright, 1996) of culture as the way of life of a distinct people, are found to be influential. However it is not clear that this is a result of effort on the part of anthropologists. While people trained in anthropology have been involved in implementing the cultural initiatives that preceded the peace process, other disciplines - notably law, history and political science - have been more influential in their conception, with only occasional references to anthropology for legitmation. Particular attention will be paid to the vaunted role of political science and theories of 'consociational democracy'. Data will be presented from local debates which expose the extent to which consociational theory relies on a 'primordial' conception of culture which may be at odds with democracy.

panel W014
Anthropology and the politics of multiculturalism (a friendly merger of W014 & W030)