‘(Re)writing on the wall: disarming weaponised murals and masculinities in loyalist Northern Ireland’

Kennedy, Struann W. J. (2023) ‘(Re)writing on the wall: disarming weaponised murals and masculinities in loyalist Northern Ireland’. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Despite considerable interest in Northern Ireland and its tradition of muralism, the relational dynamics to its host communities have yet to garner serious scholarly attention. This research contributes to addressing this omission in the literature on Ulster loyalism and serves to strengthen our understanding of intricacies seldom acknowledged. Originality of this commentary is derived not just from a gendered analysis of murals but a consideration of their psychosocial impact on the environmental construction of masculinities. This thesis, both theoretically and through inclusion of practical fieldwork, should be understood as a work of applied history in its study of the past to explicitly illuminate current challenges and opportunities in the present. This is achieved by comparing what the symbolic loyalist landscape is and what it could be. Part one documents an evolving weaponisation from the early 20th century to the present-day, defined in three periods. The hegemonic and hypermasculine archetypes throughout confirm a persisting dominance of highly restricted themes as expressions of cultural violence in their glorification of conflict. These tropes also make blatant appeals to deeply gendered behaviours, expectations, and emotions. These ultimately act to reinforce a siege mentality of insularity and aggression. Part two argues for a radical reversal of both form and function, a counter-hegemonic vision undoing the representative imbalances of women, ethnic minorities and alternative masculinities, including non-violent and queer varieties. By shifting authority away from the few to the many, murals may ‘speak’ the visual voice of the once powerless. The relevance of this thesis’ implications are abundantly clear given the ongoing threat of paramilitaries, their control over mural production, and the underlying instabilities in the region which propagate such contested misuse. Ultimately this project’s contribution is not limited to a description of difficulties but seeks to advance viable solutions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Irish and British history, peace and conflict research, gender studies, cultural peacebuilding, public art
Subjects: L200 Politics
L900 Others in Social studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2023 08:07
Last Modified: 28 Mar 2024 03:30
URI: https://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/51636

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