On narrow ground
: human rights and the architecture of conflict

  • Tim Lawrence Cunningham

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines what a more holistic approach to transitional justice that incorporates the social and economic dimensions of conflict means in theory and practice. The thesis applies a systems theory framework, showing how the economic, political, planning and architectural systems
interacted to shape patterns of social disadvantage and political violence in
Belfast. The thesis uncovers, identifies and exploits hitherto unknown documents confirming how the British Army used the planning and architecture of the built environment in Belfast as a conflict management
strategy. This is an important finding given the range of commentators over several decades who argued that there was no evidence to suggest that there was security force involvement in the planning and design of Belfast during the conflict. The thesis also examines, through a case study analysis, how efforts to address structural and systemic conflict legacy issues continue to be impacted by the complex relationship that exists in
Belfast between systemic inequalities, political identity, and territory. An important finding of the thesis is that efforts to address structural and systemic conflict legacy issues in Belfast are compromised by the different ways in which patterns of inequality and disadvantage are shaped across the two communities. The wider lesson from this study is that a more holistic understanding of transitional justice that engages structural and systemic conflict legacy issues requires a more ‘reflexive’ approach that is capable of ‘cutting with the grain of understanding’ of the processes that shaped social and economic disadvantage, as well as political violence, in the first place.
Date of AwardJun 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRory O'Connell (Supervisor) & Anne Smith (Supervisor)


  • Transitional justice
  • Northern Ireland conflict
  • Inequality and socio-economic rights
  • Urban planning
  • Architecture

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