Author:Matthew McCoy (Anthropology)
Paper short abstract:
Based on ethnographic fieldwork with Protestants and Catholics who live on opposite sides of a series of peace walls in east Belfast, this paper examines how these walls have shaped the possibilities for cultivating a good life amidst the ongoing legacy of conflict, poverty, and segregation.
Paper long abstract:
Nearly fifty years ago, walls began emerging between Protestant and Catholic working-class neighborhoods in Belfast, Northern Ireland during the outset of "the Troubles." Some of these walls were built by residents to protect their homes, but soon afterwards the official State policy mandated the construction of "peace" walls by the British Army as a temporary measure to quell sectarian violence. Today, twenty years after the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, these walls remain. Life within these walls is shaped, in part, by interactions with them. Through a person-centered ethnographic approach, this paper aims to show the everyday ethics and moral sensibilities of Catholic and Protestant residents who face localized security mechanisms such as "peace walls," CCTV, and continual police surveillance. This paper also engages the recent "ethical turn" in anthropology to frame the ways in which individuals cultivate a sense of moral personhood amidst the walls. Based on ethnographic fieldwork with Protestants and Catholics who live on opposite sides of a series of peace walls in east Belfast, this paper examines the manner in which these walls have shaped the possibilities for cultivating a good life amidst the ongoing legacy of conflict, poverty, and segregation. Individuals on each side of the wall often describe experiencing the mood of "bitterness" that prevents ethical cohabitation. The segregated spaces created by the peace walls have become "moral laboratories" (Mattingly 2015), and this paper shows the manner in which these moral subjectivities captured by local discourses on"bitterness" and "walls in the mind" are often elided by counter-discourses promoting Belfast's "post-conflict" status.
Imagining and creating walls, utopias, and co-fragile formations