St Patrick’s Symposium

At the invitation of the John Hewitt Society, the Chair, Professor Brandon Hamber, was asked to speak at the St Patrick’s Symposium on 15 March 2021. The Symposium focused on the topic of Reminiscence.

The event “At Home with St. Patrick” in Armagh differed from other St. Patrick’s festivals by examining and celebrating who St. Patrick was, his values, his life and his legacy. This holistic approach aimed to offer insights that can reflect on life in the contemporary world.

Drawing on this broad idea, the Chair’s lecture focused on the topic of “Nostalgia, Conflict and Dreaming of Never Again”. The lecture explored the complicated process of remembering conflict, and the tension between solidarity and relationship building within communities (which can be remembered nostalgically) and the horrors of the political conflict itself.

Peace as Violence

On 10 March 2021 the Chair presented a paper at the “Understanding Violence Seminar Series” hosted by the Department of War Studies, King’s College London.

This talk explored how peace processes, and the aftermath, are experienced by survivors and former combatants. It argues that the change in context embodies a range of new forms of violence and harm for some. It draws on case studies of empirical research with former combatants and survivors in Northern Ireland and South Africa, as well the case of some Vietnam Veterans who formed part of a recent research project. It explores how a sequential understanding of trauma can help explain the challenge of reframing meaning away from violence once a formal peace has been established.

Beyond rainbow-ism in South Africa

Dr Wilhelm Verwoerd addressing the audience with the painting “The Black Christ” in the background

On November 2019 the Chair hosted an important civic lecture on the Magee Campus. The lecture was given by Dr Wilhelm Verwoerd, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa entitled “Beyond rainbow-ism in South Africa: a restitutional reading of the ‘Black Christ'”.

The intriguing title referred to a 1962 protest art work in which Albert Luthuli – then president of the African National Congress and Nobel Peace Prize winner – controversially replaces (a typically pale-skinned figure of) Jesus on the cross.  The then Minister of Justice, John Vorster, is portrayed as the soldier in the background, with Prime Minister Verwoerd as the centurion-with-the-spear.

In the lecture, as South Africa’s post-1994 dream of a “rainbow nation” is increasingly being challenged, Wilhelm treated this painting as an icon to help explore some of the deep wounds of the past that have not been fully recognised, let alone addressed, especially within the white “beneficiary community”.  Since the centurion-with-the-spear is also his grandfather he focused on the intergenerational challenge of restitutional shared responsibility with this relational dynamic in the foreground. The lecture was deeply moving and thought provoking, and is available online.

Digital Technology, War and Peace

As part of the BuildPeace Conference that Ulster University hosted the Chair arranged for a special lecture to take place on the Magee Campus on 26 October 2018. The lecture was delivered by Helena Puig Larrauri, Co-founder & Director at Build Up, and was entitled “Digital Technology, War and Peace: Three provocations”. The lectures considers whether digital technology is creating the conditions for more polarisation, discord and (eventually) violence. Or do digital technologies offer new and exciting ways to connect, find common ground and build peace? Drawing on practical experiences of local peacebuilders around the world, the lecture explores the way digital technology interacts with the dynamics that drive war and peace.

The lecture is available below.

Northern Ireland’s Lessons for Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Professor Hamber spoke at a conference in Washington DC focusing on “Northern Ireland’s Lessons for Israeli-Palestinian Peace” held at the US Institute for Peace, 13 March 2017. This event also included Dr Adrian Johnston (IFI). More here http://buff.ly/2mFbfR0.

Lecture in Dublin

irish_association_logoOn returning from Washington DC, Professor Hamber spoke on 12 September 2015 at the Irish Association for Economic, Cultural and Social Relations, Stephen’s Green-Hibernian Club in Dublin on the topic of “Transforming Societies After Political Violence”. The lecture focused on the challenges of building peace in societies emerging from conflict and emphasised the importance of creating context-driven approaches to political and social trauma. The lecture also focused on how dealing with the past remains a key aspect of the Northern Ireland peace process that still needs to be grappled with.