Beginning of “the Troubles” and the erection of the “Peace Lines” (constellations)
Over the course of 1969, domestic tensions in Northern Ireland, which had been growing for decades between the Protestant and Catholic parts of the population, escalated to the point of open violence. In August, various cities experienced several days of civil-war-like unrest. In Belfast, the hostile confessional groups engaged in veritable street battles in which residential districts were attacked and entire streets lined with houses were burned down. Nine people were killed, over 700 civilians and police were injured, and in Belfast alone nearly 400 houses were damaged by arson attacks.
Northern Ireland was an integral part of the United Kingdom. When the situation came to a head, the prime minister of Northern Ireland called on the central government in London for help. In response, British army units were sent to separate the parties to the conflict and bring the situation back under control. After arriving, the British soldiers began to put up barbed wire fences and checkpoints around the neighbourhoods controlled by the battling groups – first at the hot spot between the Catholic Falls Road and the Protestant Shankill Road. The idea was to prevent further attacks between Protestants and Catholics. General Sir Ian Freeland, the British troops’ general officer commanding, called these peace lines a “very, very temporary affair”, underscoring his position thus: “We will not have a Berlin Wall or anything like that in this city”.
The Peace Line on Springmartin Road in Belfast-West
Yet over the course of the nearly thirty-year conflict in Northern Ireland, which is often referred to as “the Troubles”, the provisional fences were indeed replaced with permanent barriers: walls of concrete and steel, up to eight meters high and reinforced at the top with fencing, whose various sections ran for a total of 34 kilometres through front yards and residential streets. These so-called “peace lines” or “peace walls” put their stamp on the cityscape of Belfast, as they did in other Northern Irish cities like Derry/Londonderry, Portadown and Lurgan. They became a visible expression of Northern Ireland’s population, divided by civil war.
Conference at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies (ifeas) Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany
22 – 24 February 2018
This conference introduces the notion of care into studies of humanitarianism. Care is a social activity produced by combinations of intimate and institutional practices. All of us need to be cared for, but care requirements are revealed more starkly and are often amplifi ed in moments of acute need or emergency. At the same time, in emergency and disaster situations, quotidian care arrangements can themselves undergo a crisis. Everyday routines may need to be adapted and radically changing conditions can call into question established procedures, or demand alternative modes of action.
Humanitarian intervention reconfigures caring institutions through new ways of knowing and representing suffering that emerge alongside organizational responses; it produces shifts in the organization and practice of care that profoundly reshape the sociality of those involved; and it is implicated in the production of new material environments that restructure the possibilities and limits of caring interventions. Contributors draw on ethnographic fi eldwork to explore the mutual construction of entitlements, responsibilities and governance that shape practices of care in humanitarian contexts, as well as the moral underpinnings, materiality and lived realities of these dynamics.