Creating liminal spaces of collective possibility in divided societies: building and burning the Temple

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This article explores the potential of liminal space to provide opportunities for collective reflection and healing in divided societies transitioning from conflict. In March 2015, acclaimed artist David Best brought his Burning Man phenomenon ‘Temple’ from the Nevada desert to a Northern Irish city in transition. Derry/Londonderry, where the politics of nomenclature is symptomatic of a populace still struggling over space and meaning, experienced acute levels of violence during 30 years of ethno-nationalist conflict. The legacy of that violence has produced a geography of entrenched residential segregation which has ironically sharpened since the onset of a peace process in the late 1990s. Its segregated streetscape is heavily scripted, conveying the trappings of continued division and narrating partisan interpretations of the past. Drawing on Till’s concepts of wounded cities, memory-work and place-based care, and extending existing conceptualisations of liminality, this article suggests that Best’s ‘Temple’ ruptured a memoryscape that largely prohibits shared explorations of the meaning and nature of the conflict. While measuring the ‘success’ of this spatial intervention is decidedly difficult, Best’s temporary commemorative installation in a divided landscape offers a unique opportunity to examine the unexplored possibilities of creating liminal spaces which facilitate uncontested practices of memory within bounded, segregated space in divided societies. It is argued here that the concept of liminality might provide a new way of thinking about the twin processes of remembrance and peacebuilding in wounded cities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-339
Number of pages17
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number3
Early online date8 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Jul 2019


  • Burning Man
  • commemoration
  • conflict
  • liminal space
  • memory
  • Temple
  • Commemoration
  • Conflict
  • Liminal space
  • Memory
  • Burning man


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