Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI) Annual Conference

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Political Studies Association Ireland Annual Conference
Paper Given
Title: Museum Narratives in Deeply Divided Societies: Political Science as a Tool for Insight and Inclusion

This paper seeks to establish a working nexus for political science conceptualisation and heritage practice in deeply divided societies. Museums in such societies often buttress an ethno-national narrative of recent conflict, inhibiting interventions which seek to promote peacebuilding. Political science can contribute critically within this tensioned discourse. Organising concepts drawn from political science have not been frequently reached for in heritage practice in settings of ethnic conflict and deep division, but can leverage new perspectives, and thus inform curation. In building this nexus, the paper compares political narratives in museums in deeply divided societies by drawing on concepts that have informed academic research into deep division and ethno-national conflict. Three case studies in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Israel are examined.
The article constructs theoretically informed ‘lenses’ -labelled identity, political violence, and legitimacy from multiple concepts identified in the formation and maintenance of deeply divided societies. These lenses can enable us critically and constructively to interrogate and re-organise our understanding of ethno-national narration in ‘single identity’ museums, and delineate how such museums engage in practice with ‘prime movers’ of division. Importantly, the lenses also spotlight existing narrative spaces within the case museums which may facilitate nuanced perspectives and forms of identity.
Period14 Oct 202216 Oct 2022
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • museums
  • Divided Societies
  • peacebuilding
  • Political Science