Fields of Opportunity

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This paper develops an argument that certain cultural activity during the Northern Irish conflict was central to the conditions of possibility of the eventual political settlement. This argument is developed through a case study examination of the activities of the Field Day theatre company and its intellectual opponents. At a time when institutional politics was stultified and ineffectual, and when much ‘culture’ chose to ‘rise above’ the conflict, Field Day, through a self-conscious post-colonial ‘affective turn’ (the exploration of the sense of belonging) and an associated refusal to regard culture and politics as separable, became an archetype of attempts to artistically and intellectually embrace and yet transcend conflict issues. Contestation by intellectual opponents had the paradoxical effect of productively complexifying the imaginative terrain on questions of national, ethnic and political identity. The parallel political effect rendered possible was the re-conceptualization of what seemed the core and ineluctable constitutional question of British or Irish sovereignty, into the pragmatic question of what was constitutionally sufficient (both practically and symbolically) to allow people to feel either Irish or British in the same socio-political space. The wider argument generated from this local example is that the issues of cultural expression, as the matter of putting form to affect, must be central to transitional justice concerns. This is tied to the idea that transitional justice scholarship can somewhat avoid sterile oppositions between law-centred or interdisciplinary work by embracing the productive complication brought by a fulsome conceptualization of affective dimensions of justice that cut across and beyond politics and law.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArt and Transitional Justice
ISBN (Print)978-1-4614-8384-7
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Aug 2013


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