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Title of Paper: A Conflict Under Glass? Exhibitions and Political Violence in a Deeply Divided Society
This paper examines how museums and exhibitions in regions of ethno-national conflict, with particular focus on a case study of representations of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, portray political violence, identity and communal antagonism. The paper examines the construction of narratives representing conflict, and the potential for exhibitions to buttress subjective history, or represent a more complicated plurality of interpretations.
How does an exhibition deal with the depiction of political violence when communities remain fractured, and the past may be instrumentalised in ongoing political struggles in the present? The paper examines two categories of museums which we might define as the sectional and the inclusive. In examining exhibitions, the paper will delineate several analytical frames by which representations of conflict and contested history may be analysed, compared, and contrasted. These frames can spotlight and explore the politics of memory at work in terms of exhibition Narrative, Message Projection, Commemorative Style, Depiction of the ‘Other’, and the Presence of Reflection. The paper also considers how practice and learning from the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ may influence engagement with the more recent living memory of the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’.