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Labouring towards the space to belong: Place and identity in Northern Ireland

Bryonie Reid


The concept of belonging in place acquires particular intricacy in the context of Northern Ireland, where strong territorial imperatives come into intimate conflict.  This paper aims to unfold some of the complexities of imagining the province as a place, and the difficulties involved in claiming belonging there, drawing attention to the apparently ongoing refusal to share the ownership of spaces. Theories attempting to resolve this conflict from cultural and political perspectives will be examined, in addition to looking at practices at various levels of community which evidence different understandings of place and belonging. Some aspire to revision of established myths, others aspire to operate beneath or beyond these myths, and each are successful to varying degrees. The intention is not to suggest that these practices are a solution to Northern Ireland's sectarian geography, but rather to recognise that despite the predominantly defensive attitudes to place and belonging, fallible but important efforts are being made to revise or open out this thinking.

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