Accepted paper:

Layers of the (post-) post-conflict: affective street art encounters in Belfast's cathedral quarter


Kayla Rush (Clark State Community College)

Paper short abstract:

This performance-paper narrates the experience of a street art walking tour in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter. It examines the ways in which layers of affective meaning accrue to urban streetscapes, and suggests that these artistic presentations of the city might be understood as 'post-post-conflict'.

Paper long abstract:

Belfast's 'Cathedral Quarter' is known for its heritage buildings, both standing and long-destroyed; its artistic denizens, past and present; and, in recent years, its vibrant, world-class street art. These temporary artistic works, created by both local and international artists, are layered visually on top of the neighbourhood's built environment, and symbolically on top of its living memories of violent conflict. Increasingly, these works are also presented in dialogue with, and often as a protest against, developer agendas for the area, which are seen as destroying the neighbourhood's unique local identity.

This paper examines this literal and figurative layering of meanings within the context of the Cathedral Quarter's popular 'street art walking tours'. Using performative practices of collage, it presents the voices, stories, and symbols that populate these tours, and in so doing examines the ways in which affective meanings accrue and are ascribed to places within urban streetscapes. It argues that pedestrian practices, such as walking tours, play a unique role in facilitating these affective encounters.

This paper argues, moreover, for a new understanding of contemporary constructions of Belfast's identity, which are well exemplified by the Cathedral Quarter. It suggests that these street art walking tours work to present Belfast as something other than a post-conflict city: as a place that has moved, or is attempting to move, beyond the category of 'post-conflict', into what I will argue might be helpfully described as the 'post-post-conflict'.

panel D01
Streetscapes: affective encounters between People and Things