Hidden Barriers in Belfast

Last week David Coyles, Dr Adrian Grant and Professor Brandon Hamber presented research findings to a Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series (KESS) at Stormont on “Hidden barriers and divisive architecture: the case of Belfast”. The research notes that “peace-walls” are particularly symbolic of the role that architecture plays in separating residential communities and a comprehensive scholarship continues to assess their effects, but the research focuses on other barriers in the city. The presentation outlines original findings from a three-year multi-disciplinary academic research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which extends this current understanding of physical and social division. It reveals new evidence of a distinct and important, yet largely unrecognised, body of divisive architecture; an extensive range of ‘hidden barriers’ embedded in various architectural forms across Belfast’s residential communities. You can download the Policy Brief, click here.

Paper: Victim and Survivor Issues

cvsni-logoMore locally, Professor Hamber recently was able to make some very direct suggestions around victim policy at the “Building the Future: Victim and Survivor Issues in Context. Review of the Victims and Survivors Strategy 2009-2019 Conference hosted by the Commission for Victims and Survivors, Titanic Belfast, 9-10 March 2016. Professor Hamber presented a paper on the victim issues and stumbling blocks in the dealing with the past process. The paper argues that

1.We cannot build the future if we do not have a common vision for the future;
2.We cannot build the future if we do not truly understand the past;
3.We cannot build the future without a holistic and collaborative approach; and
4.We cannot build a future without dealing with dominant masculine cultures.

If you would like to read the paper it can be downloaded here.

Pictured at the Commission for Victims and Survivors Conference to review the Victims Strategy are Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Commissioner Judith Thompson and First Minster Arlene Foster (Credit: VCS website. Press Eye - Northern Ireland -9th March 2016)
Pictured at the Commission for Victims and Survivors Conference to review the Victims Strategy are Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Commissioner Judith Thompson and First Minster Arlene Foster (Credit: VCS website. Press Eye – Northern Ireland -9th March 2016)

Article: Archives and Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland

Professor Hamber with Gráinne Kelly recently produced a new and important article:

2-coverThrough the prism of Northern Ireland, this article explores the function of existing and proposed archives within societies emerging from conflict, and highlights their potential in adding complexity to understanding conflict and challenging dominant narratives. The article outlines how, despite progress since the Northern Ireland peace accord in 1998, efforts to deal with the past and human rights violations have been piecemeal and politically contested. In the absence of a comprehensive approach to the past, testimony gathering, initiated ‘unofficially’ at a community level, has provided opportunities for individuals’ experiences of the conflict to be documented and acknowledged. The recent Stormont House Agreement (2014) seeks to establish an Oral History Archive as a central repository for individuals to ‘share experiences and narratives related to the Troubles’. The article discusses the challenges in developing this ‘official’ archive, and the problem of reconciling competing historical narratives of the past. This is contrasted against the growth in bottom-up ‘storytelling’ or testimony work. The article argues for supplementing the official process with wider testimony gathering processes directed by and located within community contexts. It is argued that the deliberate juxtaposition of contrasting horizontal or inter-community narratives held by different local parties may allow for the emergence of a more complex and inclusive narrative of the past, rather than attempts to impose a shared vertical narrative, which is subject to either further contestation or uncomfortable compromise.

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Importantly this article was part of a special edition of the Journal of Human Rights Practice focused on the issue of archives and their role in transitional justice processes. Gráinne Kelly, Brandon Hamber and colleagues from swisspeaceElisabeth BaumgartnerBriony Jonesand Ingrid Oliveira, were the guest editors of the journal. The journal special issue was timely as it meant that several high level academics and practitioners were able to distribute their research on the topic of archives focusing on a range of places: Northern Ireland, Kosovo, South Africa, Canada, etc.

The paper can be downloaded here for those with academic access, or alternative email Professor Hamber for a copy.

Article: Masculinities, Peacebuilding and Transitional Justice

Recently, the Chair published:

Hamber, Brandon (2015). There Is a Crack in Everything: Problematising Masculinities, Peacebuilding and Transitional Justice. Human Rights Review, 1-26.

3This is an important publication as it outlines key tenants of how the issue of  could be dealt with in post-conflict settings, a very under-explored area. The article outlines three fissures evident in the embryonic scholarship, that is the privileging of direct violence and its limited focus, the continuities and discontinuities in militarised violence into peace time, and the tensions between new (less violent) masculinities and wider inclusive social change. The article argues for the importance of making visible the tensions between different masculinities and how masculinities are deeply entangled with systems of power and post-conflict social, political and economic outcomes. An analysis of masculine power within and between the structures aimed at building the peace in societies moving out of violence is considered essential. The article argues for an analysis that moves beyond a preoccupation with preventing violent masculinities from manifesting through the actions of individuals to considering how hidden masculine cultures operate within a variety of hierarchies and social spaces.

Masculinity is now a developing area and the Chair’s work has contributed to this, and Professor Hamber will also attend a conference in Oxford on the issue in October 2016.

The paper can be downloaded here for those with academic access, or alternative email Professor Hamber for a copy.