Spatial practice in conflict and conflict-transformation

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Belfast is often described as a ‘contested city’ and its social and physical divisions remain acutely visible in its housing settlements. Whilst current conflict-transformation policy in Northern Ireland embraces the social legacies of sectarian segregation, they fail recognise the complexities presented by the material and spatial legacies of conflict. This paper problematises prevailing policy orthodoxy by presenting findings from a three-year multi-disciplinary research project, revealing a programme of undisclosed military involvement in the planning of social-housing in Belfast between 1976 and 1982 at the height of ‘the Troubles’. Quite distinct from the widely recognised ‘peace-walls’ which continue to separate a range of Catholic and Protestant communities in Belfast, the paper examines how these confidential interventions sought to latently control the planning of social-housing in order to facilitate the military and political objectives of reducing terrorist threat, controlling civil disorder and bolstering economic stability. Here the paper draws parallels with contemporary international discourses where citizens are pre-emptively targeted through power-knowledge networks and objectified as potential ‘security-threats’. The paper goes on to illustrates how these historic processes have put in place a modern-day urban fabric in Belfast that reinforces patterns of social inequality and division in distinctly unseen ways. The paper concludes by examining how such interventions sit beyond the scope of conflict-transformation policy, placing continued limitations on spatial mobility and social equality. In doing so, the paper argues the need for a conflict-transformation policy rationalisation that is premised on community-level urban regeneration practices that integrate social, material and spatial development.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2018
EventAssociation of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) 2018 Congress: Making Space For Hope - Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden
Duration: 10 Jul 201814 Jul 2018


ConferenceAssociation of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) 2018 Congress


  • Architecture
  • Conflict
  • Military
  • Belfast
  • the Troubles
  • Planning
  • Security


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  • The Security-Threat-Community

    Coyles, D., 25 Jan 2018, In: City. 21, 6, p. 699-723 25 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access
    11 Citations (Scopus)

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