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Political imprisonment and the sanctity of death: performing heritage in ‘Troubled’ Ireland

Welch, Michael (2016) Political imprisonment and the sanctity of death: performing heritage in ‘Troubled’ Ireland. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 22 (9). pp. 664-678. ISSN 1352-7258

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Identification Number: 10.1080/13527258.2016.1184702


The ‘Troubles’ is a euphemism associated with sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s until the late 1990s. Similarly, that term also is used to depict turmoil in all of Ireland between 1916 through 1924. During both eras, political imprisonment coupled with various forms of political violence (e.g. bombings, executions, and prisoner abuse) marred Irish society in ways that invoke socio-religious meaning. In particular, the sanctity of death captures the intense semiotics of those events and points to further theorising along lines of the Durkheimian tradition. As we shall examine herein, violations of the sanctity of death compound social conflict and the resistance it creates. Fieldwork was undertaken in Dublin and Belfast where official landmarks were explored in-depth: Kilmainham Gaol and the Crumlin Road Prison, respectively. Additionally in Belfast, other – unofficial – cultural sites provide further evidence of socio-religious symbolism, most notably the Irish Republican History Museum, Roddy McCorley’s Club in West Belfast, and murals in both Loyalist and Republican communities. Whereas Durkeimian theory remains at the forefront of the analysis, insights also are informed by heritage studies, in particular notions of cultural performance in contested societies.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 The Author
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2016 10:37
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 02:17

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