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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Historically, the state, shall we say - although it’s often difficult to define what we mean by the state - but authorities have always been very concerned with how they control these events. They’re both concerned in the sense that they create events themselves. Authorities have their own parades, their own power they want to manifest through events. And whether it be a big military parade or a political parade or events, they want to manifest themselves in the public space. But of course, they also have concerns about how other people do the same sort of things. So it’s fascinating to me how the state reacts, or attempts to control, what takes place.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 seconds And so, then all states tend to have rules and institutions set up around this sphere, whether it be laws or various policing institutions which have been existent. And I think was mentioned earlier, sometimes cities are even designed around the ability of the state to move people in and out, and to control what takes place. Neil, when you’ve looked at - you’ve done work in many countries around the world. How does that, the concerns of the state, manifest itself in what it does? What do you see as the difference, maybe, between different states and how they attempt to control that sphere and their ability to do so?

Skip to 1 minute and 48 seconds I suppose that one of the contrasts is in the sense of the degree of legitimacy the state feels it has, as to whether it can allow more of those big mobilizations or whether it aims to suppress any example of those mobilizations. And that will often be the way through, the form in which the police take. How militarised the police are, how heavily they are utilised to act as an agent of the state rather than an agent of - enabler for, the wider population. And you can look at that correlation if you like.

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 seconds If you think we talked earlier about perhaps some of the modern ideas of use of public space for mass mobilizations post-dating the French Revolution in the late 18th century. And it was the early 19th century when the idea of a formalised police organisation - Yeah. - was constructed as, perhaps in part, as a counterpart to those sense of immobilising. When you look at an earlier era you think of things like the Gordon Riots, when the military reporting to control demonstrations, you end up with large numbers of people being killed. Just as when you see the military being used nowadays to control mass demonstrations.

Skip to 3 minutes and 11 seconds We can think of examples right the way through recent history in all sorts of states, including in Northern Ireland where we are now, where the military where it had been a policing function. And the need to bring in the military to control what’s taking place, or sort of home guard. Which is taking place in all sorts of societies as a real sign, and in a sense a symbol, that something has gone wrong. The power is under threat when you ask your military to come in and help police one of those situations. The military tend to be thought of as protecting the national borders and the national entity against another state.

Skip to 3 minutes and 55 seconds And if you have to turn the military on your own people, it’s almost as if, it is the case when the war is turned internal and the people are then the international enemy. So I think that’s a key point to consider. Milena, you’ve been involved in a long-term project which has looked at contested societies and contested states. In terms of the way that states in different places behave, can you see different ways why the public space becomes so important in those contested arenas?

Skip to 4 minutes and 38 seconds Yes, I suppose what happens in societies, which we like to call divided or contested societies - of course conflict and contestation exist in most any society under some form - but what happens in such places is that this ability that we talked about earlier, not even ability. What happens in societies normally is that there are many identities that express themselves - Yeah. In public space simultaneously, at any given time in different ways. And the state reacts or controls that differently. What happens in divided societies is that this ability is to some extent lost. So that the use and appropriation of space, of public spaces, to the exclusion of various identities gets taken to the extreme.

Skip to 5 minutes and 35 seconds So that certain spaces become occupied or associated with the territory of a certain collective identity. And the different collectivities do not have the ability to negotiate that among themselves, and this is where the state comes in to try and control or police it in some way. And that happens differently depending on the extent to which the state is identified with one collective identity. That’s important, isn’t it? The way the identity of the state is often structured. So you can think of countries all over the world, whether it be Hindu or Muslim relationships in somewhere like India, where the state although was set up to be non-religious, you’ve had Hindu groups become part of it.

Skip to 6 minutes and 24 seconds You think of the setting up of a state like Israel, where Jewishness is at the core. And you think of most Western states which in some way, shape, or form have Christianity in their identity. But despite the fact that you might ideally decide that the state should be neutral on discussing it, it never really quite is. And the way that the state then engages with all of those things becomes really important.

Manifestations of power in public space

In the final section of week 2 we reach the real crux of this course. How are these powerful events, gatherings, crowds, parades and rituals controlled? Of course, those with power often organise their own events to show off the state of the nation. But how do those with power, those with authority, or the state, attempt to control what takes place?

Neil suggests that we can look at the different mechanisms the state might use to control what is taking place. Many policing institutions around the world developed in the nineteenth century, in part, to help control the potential of organised mass gatherings. It remains quite a significant sign of stress and conflict in a society when the military, rather than civil policing institutions, are used to control a parade or demonstration.

Managing diversity and difference is a challenge in all countries but it is most acute in divided societies. Milena explains why types of social division within a society are important and why the identity of the state itself plays such an important role.

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Identity, Conflict and Public Space

Queen's University Belfast