Route of conflict and tradition: commemoration parades in Belfast
(University of Ljubljana)
Paper short abstract:
This paper will focus on the commemoration parades (i.e. the Orange parades) in the city of Belfast and their visual and symbolic displays, which are present in the entire spectrum of public space, and which contribute to the symbolic construction of the Protestant community. Accordingly, I will show how their ‘claim of tradition’ regarding the parading culture was justified by political approval and by police violence strategies, which enabled them a multilayered usage of public urban space and how this fact contributes to reassertion of their position and of their power of one community over another.
Paper long abstract:
The Orange parade in Northern Ireland is a public holiday. The Orange Institution organizes this event in order to celebrate the battle of Boyne in 1690. The city of Belfast has had an interesting history of these parades, which have been determined by specific roads and streets and by specific visual material displays along the entire route. Belfast was for the Protestant community a place of imagination, which could only ever really be realized in the act of movement (de Certeau 1984). Commemorating such an event is of extreme importance to Protestant community, as it derives from the desire for orientation in time, for integrating oneself in one's past by appropriating that past and by confirming one's identity by way of one's group identity (Frijda 1997). My paper will examine the contemporary situation of Belfast parades and will show upon the connection between ritual changes and the uses of urban space. Namely, after a period of economic prosperity, Catholic community dispersed and moved into areas of former Protestant settlement. This contributed to several issues, because the 'traditional' route of the parade, which has remained a means of asserting collective identities and claiming political dominance over territory, was contested as being a symbolic violent act to express domination over Catholic community. Their demand for re-routing the parades applied to entire parading manifestation culture. For example even the kerbstones, lamp posts and road signs are painted in the same Union colours that serve as a constant reminder of which part town one is in (Bryan 2000).
Diverse and shared publics: politics of entitlement and commemoration