If walls could talk

Northern Ireland is regarded as one of the most successful 'post conflict' societies in the world. The reimaging of Belfast as a 'post conflict' city tends to gloss over these persistent divisions. This book provides a thought provoking and comprehensive account of teenagers' perceptions and experiences of the physical and symbolic divisions that exist in 'post conflict' Belfast. Despite Northern Ireland's new status as one of the most successful examples of the resolution of what was once seen as an intractable conflict, the peace walls which separate Protestant and Catholic areas remain in place. The book examines the micro-geographies of young people and draws attention to the social practices, discourses and networks that directly or indirectly (re)shape how they make sense of and negotiate life in Belfast. It focuses is on the physical landscape enclosing interface areas and the impact that it has on the perceptions and actions of young people living in these areas. The book explores how physical divisions are perceived and experienced by young people who live in interface areas and how they view the architecture of division. It pays attention to the impact of place on teenagers' social relations within and between the localities in which they reside. The city centre of Belfast epitomises the city's status as a 'post conflict' city. A recurring argument is that identity does not exist 'out there'. The book shows how social relationships are inherently spatial and how identities are influenced by place and impact on it.

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This introduction presents an overview of key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book examines the micro-geographies of young people and draws attention to the social practices, discourses and networks that directly or indirectly (re)shape how they make sense of and negotiate life in Belfast. It focuses on how everyday life is accomplished by young people living in divided cities, using Belfast as a case study. The book explores the historical development of Belfast as a segregated city, focusing particularly on the outbreak of the 'Troubles' in 1969 and the subsequent division of territory by peace walls. It demonstrates the continuing segregated nature of Belfast in terms of housing and education. The book discusses young people's attitudes to the marking of territory through a range of visual ethno-national emblems and assesses the extent to which this influences their spatial movements.

in Teens and territory in ‘post-conflict’ Belfast

A dominant theme in childhood research is to view children and young people as having different but not lesser competencies than adults, and this feeds into data-collection strategies. This research used a combination of techniques, including questionnaires, focus-group discussions, photo prompts and story writing, in order to gain access to the complexity of young people's everyday worlds. The youth leader of an advisory group set up by Belfast City Council to advise it on issues affecting young people growing up in Belfast was contacted about the research. While questionnaires are often avoided in research with young people, more interactive and creative methods being favoured, this study found the questionnaire to be a valuable tool. Photo-elicitation is considered as a particularly appropriate tool for use in research where the participants are children and young people, as traditional interviewing may pose particular problems.

in Teens and territory in ‘post-conflict’ Belfast
An emplaced approach

This chapter provides the nature of segregation in housing and education, it is worth briefly outlining the spatial elements of the Northern Ireland conflict and its significant impact on interface areas. It discusses the spatial elements of the conflict and inequality which continue to characterise interface areas. The chapter looks at policy attempts to deal with territorial division by reimaging the city through the concept of 'shared space'. It outlines the persistence of this segregation and its importance in setting the context of young people's engagement in everyday spatial practices. According to Jones.E, the city of Belfast, from its very beginnings, was characterised by the residential segregation of Protestants and Catholics. In interface areas of Belfast, ethno-national divisions between the two communities, using religion as a convenient marker of identification, lead to the communities living side by side yet apart.

in Teens and territory in ‘post-conflict’ Belfast
Teens’ perceptions and experiences of peace walls, flags and murals

This chapter focuses on the multi-dimensional uses of walls both within and between interface areas. It explores how the physical divisions are perceived and experienced by young people who live in interface areas and how they view the architecture of division. The chapter discusses of young people's conflicting perceptions of the peace walls. The young people's attitudes to the use of flags as expressions of national identity are then examined and this is followed by a discussion of their attitudes to a wall portraying racist graffiti. The chapter presents the triple notions of teenagers as victims, perpetuators and transformers of political conflict. It considers the murals which adorn many walls within and at the margins of interface communities. Murals in Loyalist areas often represent tensions, rivalries and allegiances to different local paramilitary groups such as the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

in Teens and territory in ‘post-conflict’ Belfast
Everyday life in interface areas

This chapter focuses on to the impact of place on teenagers' social relations within and between the localities in which they reside. It discusses the young people's perception and experience of sectarianism, including how, for some, identifying who is a Catholic and who is a Protestant remains a practice engaged in by some teenagers from both communities. The chapter describes more negative aspects of territoriality and young people's perceptions of the presence and persistence of sectarianism. The term 'sectarianism' was used repeatedly by young people writing essays to describe the 'bad aspects of growing up in Belfast'. Many young people recounted how they often brought more general cues into play in order to distinguish between Catholics and Protestants. During the research carried out in 2004-2005 many teenagers discussed how the areas where they lived were deprived of recreational facilities.

in Teens and territory in ‘post-conflict’ Belfast
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Same city but a different place?

This chapter draws on data from across the range of research methods to ascertain how young people use and experience city-centre space and the impact that this space has on their varying emerging identities. It outlines the relational aspect of identities. Identities are performed in interaction with others, but these interactions occur within specific places, again underlining the important overall relationship between place and identity. As teenagers move across different spaces they interact with a broader range of people, adding further complexities to their spatial experiences. The chapter reveals a number of additional boundaries and practices of exclusion and inclusion based on generation and teen subcultures. At the same time, when young people from interface areas visit city-centre spaces, ethnonational identities often simmer beneath the surface.

in Teens and territory in ‘post-conflict’ Belfast
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Moving beyond segregated localities

This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book illuminates how teenagers growing up in Belfast construct, produce, perceive and experience place. It focuses on 'location' and outlines the evolution and development of interface locations as segregated spaces. The book outlines a range of spatial practices that young people engage in to sustain, reclaim or reappropriate local spaces. It moves to the city centre of Belfast, further illuminating that young people's sense of place is not homogeneous but multi-dimensional as they demonstrate their spatial and embodied attachment to different landscapes. The book shows how social relationships are inherently spatial and how identities, while multiple and shifting, are influenced by place and impact on it. The interactional processes which give identity meaning are often embodied and spatially emplaced.

in Teens and territory in ‘post-conflict’ Belfast