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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds But often though, lots of things mixed in together and layered on top of one another to make it a sense of distinctiveness. Sometimes a distinctiveness is fairly, it seemed to be fairly dormant for long period of time as we saw within somewhere like former Yugoslavia. Yeah. Or the division between Czechoslovakia or the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Or the current disputes between the English and the Scots which is an example of divisions within United Kingdom of contest and - Yes it’s important to say when we talk about these divided societies, I mean, there’s a sort of list of names around the world that tend to come up. But it’s important to state that all states tend to have issues.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds I mean you could look at, you could look at both the United Kingdom and Spain as another obvious example, where the nature of the state can be contested. And the United Kingdom itself could fall apart if the Scots decide - Well you see tensions in somewhere like Canada over one community which has its allegiance you know, based around the French language and its French history and another associated with its English history. So there’s a number fault lines which can be identified.

Skip to 1 minute and 24 seconds I think, though, as Milena was saying, a lot of the issues are when the state is seemed to come down to favour one community as against the other, and identified with one community, that’s when you really start to move from a contested or divided to really potentially violent society. I mean we have to, as Milena again said, we have to recognise that the conflict and contestation will exist in all contexts. The problem is not the contest. It’s the violent nature of any contest that becomes problematic. And the ability of the state to either manage it or, in fact, manifest the violence. I mean this is often the state itself which actually perpetrates the violence. Yes.

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 seconds I suppose it’s worth, on that point it’s worth adding that we’ve talked about contestation which is relatively violent and obvious, contestation where it’s not so much. And I suppose part of that is where those sort of struggles are more dormant, that it can simply be that the state has such tremendous coercive power as to make any kind of obvious manifestation of opposition almost impossible. You know, examples that spring to mind would be parts of the People’s Republic of China which are deeply contested, so Tibet is one example of that where, of course there is deep, deep, division. But most of the time, we don’t see that. Because the asymmetry in the kind of availability of violence is so strong.

Skip to 2 minutes and 58 seconds Yeah and you would have seen the classic examples of that but it also included South Africa in a period of time, how the nature of the state, the state here has changed. And the state’s utilisation of violence, and indeed, in a sense, its power to control that public arena becomes all important. That’s what makes what we’re looking at, I think, so interesting, is because you look at the way that the nature of the state, the nature of the state is setup. And its ability to control certain of those public facets.

Nature of divided societies

Conflict is common in all societies. Every type of society has mechanisms for dealing with different sorts of conflict. However, some societies have particular types of conflict that can result in high levels of violence. In week 3 we want to look at what we will call divided societies and examine the role of public spaces in these places.

By divided society we are talking about places were divisions between groups on the basis of politics, ethnicity, nationalism or religion (and these are frequently related) sometimes create high levels of violence. Dr Milena Komarova points out that crucially there can be conflict over the nature or the boundaries of the state. This is where ‘some parts of the population, some groups in the population, contest the legitimacy of that state’.

This course is coming from Northern Ireland, an example of a contested region, a contested state. Even the term of the state is contested as Unionists see Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, whereas Nationalists would argue that this region, the six counties of this region, should be part of the Republic of Ireland. The legitimacy of the state is thus contested and this had led to periods of political violence. There are other parts of the world, for example Cyprus, Israel and Palestine, Bosnia Herzegovina and Kashmir where we can find comparable divisions. Interestingly, there are states with substantive divisions in strong identity groups, such as Belgium or Canada, where levels of violent conflict have not been high.

Dr Neil Jarman explains that there are a number of features around which identity groups coalesce. Examples include language, religion, a sense of a shared history, identification with a distinctive area or territory. Social scientists frequently describe this groups as ethnic groups. Neil points out that ‘a lot of the issues arise when the state is seen to favour or identify with one community as against another’. This is of particular interest to us as the state will attempt to control expressions of identity in the public space. As Sam Pehrson points out, the state can have such coercive power that any manifestation of alternative identities are difficult. South Africa under the Apartheid regime is one such example.

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Identity, Conflict and Public Space

Queen's University Belfast