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Identity, Conflict and Public Space

Identity, conflict and public space: contest and transformation

This course introduces the learner to issues around the use of public space to express identity.

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About the course

This course introduces the learner to issues around the use of public space to express identity. Ethno-political conflicts around the world tend to differ in detail but share common structural and political issues. Fundamental to the conflicts is the ability for groups of people to have access to representation in public space. In Northern Ireland, throughout the peace process, contestation over flags, parades and memorials has been frequent. As South Africa developed a new democracy the management of demonstrations by the police became a key issue. Eastern European countries in the post-soviet era have slowly come to terms with the rights of diverse political groups to express their political opinions in public spaces. And post-9/11, western democracies have struggled to define public space for their large Muslim communities.

How is freedom of expression managed in highly divided societies, particularly when they have a history of political violence?

This course will start by looking at the nature of social groups and the importance of identity and public spaces in politics around the world (for example the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, Civil Rights Movements). It will then examine why understanding public space is important through looking at symbols, parades and memorials. The course will examine well documented examples, focusing on the learning that has arisen from the Northern Ireland peace process. It will explore the role of human rights and public policy. It will conclude by returning to the comparative frame to examine key lessons for understanding conflict transformation in divided societies.

You can use the hashtag #FLidentity to join and contribute to social media conversations about this course.


This course has no specific requirements, however learners will be required to create an artefact which could include the use of third party applications.

Get a personalised, printed certificate

You can buy a Statement of Participation for this course — a personalised, printed certificate to show that you’ve taken part.