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Unionists, Loyalists, and Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland$
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Lee A. Smithey

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195395877

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195395877.001.0001

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Mitigating Murals and Loyalist Cultural Innovation

Mitigating Murals and Loyalist Cultural Innovation

(p.78) 4 Mitigating Murals and Loyalist Cultural Innovation
Unionists, Loyalists, and Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland

Lee A. Smithey

Oxford University Press

Murals in Northern Ireland provide a useful public practice through which to observe incremental adjustments in the expression and configuration of ethnopolitical identity. The growth of mural redesign projects in loyalist communities has produced a shifting symbolic landscape. A thematic analysis of over 200 loyalist murals in Belfast reveals that violent paramilitary images and symbols are being replaced by historical, local, and a wide range of other themes. Similarly, Eleventh Night bonfires are being downsized. While contentious aspects of such displays are mitigated, the content of shared collective identities is reconfigured even as the displays retain their basic functions of performing identity and maintaining ontological security. A less-violent landscape is expected to help improve community relations by lowering levels of intimidation felt by neighbors at interfaces, and survey data indicate a confluence of changing mural themes and public perceptions of murals.

Keywords:   bonfires, community relations, ethnic identity, loyalism, mitigation, murals, Northern Ireland, ritual, symbols

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