From Virtual Peace with Virtual Reality: Exploring the contested narratives of spaces and places in Northern Ireland

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While Northern Ireland (NI) is often viewed as a post-conflict society and hailed on the international stage as a success story for conflict resolution, it is fair to say that this is not the full story as in the near quarter of a century since the paramilitary ceasefires and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, a narrative of division remains where everyday life continues to be ‘shaped by division along ethno-religious lines’ (Blaylock, Hughes, Wolfer, and Donnelly, 2018, 634).

Consequently, though generally regarded as being in a stage of conflict transformation and post-conflict reconstruction, NI remains deeply divided. Challenges remain in the ‘betwixt and between’ (Turner 1967) liminality that has been initiated by ‘peace’. Moreover, many spaces and places in Northern Ireland remain contested, perceived to be ’no go areas’ for ‘the other’ community and often divided into liminal spaces (Cunningham and Gregory 2014). Paradoxically open to international visitors ‘fascinated by the possibility of 'reading the city' through mural paintings’ (Kappler and McKane 2019, 1). This concept of liminality, further extended into literature around space and place in societies emerging from conflict (Murphy and McDowell 2019), is explored using Virtual Reality (VR) and reported within this paper.

Mirroring this virtual, ‘neither here nor there’, liminal characterisation of a community slowly emerging from conflict, this paper examines the use of VR as a pedagogical tool to share and explore narratives of contested spaces and places. Reporting on impact within teacher education, we examine the capacity for liminal, perspective-taking affordances of VR as a pedagogical tool, outlining how narratives of Northern Ireland’s contested ‘no go areas’ might be interpreted and contribute to progressing a real and lasting peace.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDealing with the Legacy of Conflict in Northern Ireland through Engagement and Dialogue
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 20 Nov 2020


  • Northern Ireland
  • Teacher Education
  • Virtual Reality
  • Bloody Sunday
  • Liminality
  • Pre-service teachers
  • Teacher Identity


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