Parading Memory and Re-member-ing Conflict: Collective Memory in Transition in Northern Ireland



In Northern Ireland, parades have long been important carriers of politico-cultural identities and collective memories, as well as arenas of struggle and conflict. Taking as its starting point that these contests over meaning are always framed by their contexts of articulation both in temporal and spatial terms, this article examines the role of parades in the current ‘post-conflict’ phase of the peace process as it plays out in a particular location, namely North Belfast. Using theories of cultural and collective memory and examples from republican and loyalist parades in North Belfast, it is argued that there is fear of memory and identity collapse in particular communities on the margins of the peace process, leading to a conscious doubling of efforts to (re)articulate the hidden recesses of memory in the current transition. In this, the patterns of ‘competitive commemoration’ in parades should be understood both horizontally: as majority memory traditions move to minority memory positions, and vertically: in relation to the increasing dissonance between vernacular practices of conflict and the official post-conflict discourses in Northern Ireland. Central to these arguments is the recognition that parading traditions are at once presentist, competitive instruments and also emotional and embodied practices to ensure the continuity of identity. It follows that both dimensions must be recognised together, if cognitive and visceral templates of conflict are to be explained and shifted. This article applies a wide-angle memory studies lens to capture the two together and explore the changing parade-scape.


Collective memory Parades Northern Ireland Place Conflict Transition 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Communication and CultureAarhus UniversityÅrhus CDenmark

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