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The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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Katy Hayward – “Visibility and Violence: Insights from managing contentious events in Belfast”

Time and Place: Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, Scuola Normale Superiore – Palazzo Strozzi, Florence – Room Filippo Strozzi, 7 November 2017, 2.30pm

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The association of territorial space with particular communal and political identities infuses much thinking about the nature of conflict in Northern Ireland. Evidence for this is found in the persistent inter-group tensions and violence prompted by cultural parades and commemorations in certain areas. Conflict management in this area has centred on trying to balance competing claims regarding ‘rights’ in and to territorial space. This paper is based on research that originated with the ESRC-funded ‘Conflict in Cities and the Contested State’ project and has produced eight years of unbroken ethnographic fieldwork on one of the most contentious annual events in Belfast, that of the Orange Order through a particular part of North Belfast (Ardoyne). It draws on data that includes field observations from different perspectives and locations, interviews (including ‘walking interviews’), media coverage, official documents and photographic and video archives of the events in question.

Our hypothesis here is that it is not the built environment itself nor its symbolic significance that is of most importance here, but rather the visibility of the various subjects during the contentious events. Visibility may be understood as a field of social action through which territoriality is established, resisted and explored. Drawing on Brighenti’s (2010) insights, we illustrate the three forms of public visibility at work in this context: Spectacle, Recognition, Control. In so doing, we see that events are made contentious by the type of visibility that participants at an event are seeking and are given at any particular point. By better understanding the type of visibility at work during a contested event as it relates to the position and action of any subject group (paraders, protestors, observers, police), we can better understand the triggers for violence and the conditions for effective conflict management.

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Publications

Monograph - 2018

Political Strategies and Social Movements in Latin America. The Zapatistas and Bolivian Cocaleros

Leonidas Oikonomakis
This book investigates how social movements form their political strategies in their quest for social change and -when they shift from one strategy to another- why and how that happens.

Monograph - 2018

The Contentious Politics of Higher Education. Struggles and Power Relations within English and Italian Universities

Lorenzo Cini
Drawing on neo-institutionalist and social movement approaches, this book analyses the impact that recent student mobilizations have brought about within Italian and English universities in terms of student services, curriculum organization, and governance structures.