This paper aims to chart the physical and symbolic role of urban territory in highly sectarian and violently divided societies. The discussion is based on field work, including extended interviews conducted in the Northern Irish Protestant enclave of the Fountain (Londonderry) in 2003 and 2004 and in the Lebanese Christian quarter of Tyre in 2005 and 2006. Both Lebanon and Northern Ireland experience controversial, though somehow accepted, multi-cultural power-sharing systems at a national level. It seems, however, that these systems are not reflected at a local level, where societies have developed normative or informal defensive means of inclusion and exclusion against perceived threatening ethno-religious communities. Both urban realities constantly evoke, and strongly rely on, peculiar and exclusive historically and ethnically rooted trajectories that often sharply diverge from those of their proxy border communities. This has been one of the main reasons for past inter-religious and sectarian conflicts and hate, which continue to manifest themselves into various forms of mutually accepted segregation, ranging from education to job opportunities. On the other hand, urban territory control has virtually become an overt extension of a religious calling in each ethno-religious group. The reason for this is that control over urban territory is seen as a unifying factor. It also acts as a provider of coherence as well as integration for the individual at the expense of larger inclusive communal identity, which is prevented at a national level because of the mutually accepted multi-cultural arrangements. Thus any change imposed at the local level would create local instability. This paper suggests that local instability will in turn rekindle the broad national inter-religious conflict since it would challenge the various clusters that mark the multi-cultural power-sharing system agreements. Both Lebanon and Northern Ireland have in fact been unable to provide any integrative lasting shared culture. The deliverance of common values based on a shared civic understanding of the nation state should, on one hand, be sufficiently broad-minded to respect religious differences, but it should also, on the other hand, be strong enough to exclude such differences from being a vital component of most socio-communal behaviour.

Urban Reality vs National Imagination: The Case of Lebanon and Northern Ireland

MOLLICA, MARCELLO
2009

Abstract

This paper aims to chart the physical and symbolic role of urban territory in highly sectarian and violently divided societies. The discussion is based on field work, including extended interviews conducted in the Northern Irish Protestant enclave of the Fountain (Londonderry) in 2003 and 2004 and in the Lebanese Christian quarter of Tyre in 2005 and 2006. Both Lebanon and Northern Ireland experience controversial, though somehow accepted, multi-cultural power-sharing systems at a national level. It seems, however, that these systems are not reflected at a local level, where societies have developed normative or informal defensive means of inclusion and exclusion against perceived threatening ethno-religious communities. Both urban realities constantly evoke, and strongly rely on, peculiar and exclusive historically and ethnically rooted trajectories that often sharply diverge from those of their proxy border communities. This has been one of the main reasons for past inter-religious and sectarian conflicts and hate, which continue to manifest themselves into various forms of mutually accepted segregation, ranging from education to job opportunities. On the other hand, urban territory control has virtually become an overt extension of a religious calling in each ethno-religious group. The reason for this is that control over urban territory is seen as a unifying factor. It also acts as a provider of coherence as well as integration for the individual at the expense of larger inclusive communal identity, which is prevented at a national level because of the mutually accepted multi-cultural arrangements. Thus any change imposed at the local level would create local instability. This paper suggests that local instability will in turn rekindle the broad national inter-religious conflict since it would challenge the various clusters that mark the multi-cultural power-sharing system agreements. Both Lebanon and Northern Ireland have in fact been unable to provide any integrative lasting shared culture. The deliverance of common values based on a shared civic understanding of the nation state should, on one hand, be sufficiently broad-minded to respect religious differences, but it should also, on the other hand, be strong enough to exclude such differences from being a vital component of most socio-communal behaviour.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11568/479667
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