‘Political prisoner resistance and the blanket protest’
: a case study on political imprisonment, power relations and performative masculinity in Northern Ireland

  • Conor Byrne

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research investigates the ‘Blanket Protest’ in Northern Ireland (1976-1981), an Irish Republican-led protest concerning the status of politically motivated prisoners incarcerated at this time. Through semi-structured interviews, the aim of this project is to investigate the experiences of ex-Blanket protestors in order to explore the exercise of power in a political imprisonment context and evaluate the relationship between strategies of resistance and performances of masculinity. Highlighting the politically charged relationship between state actors (prison officers) and non-conforming prisoners in opposition with the state, this study points towards protestors’ strategies of resistance as an influential factor in establishing an alternative performance of hegemonic masculinity. This PhD explores different strategies of resistance and the coping mechanisms protestors implemented, deepening the understanding of what acts may constitute political resistance.

The findings indicate a significant interplay between the exercise of power by prison authorities and strategies of prisoner resistance during times of conflict. The findings also suggest that resistance strategies encouraged an alternative form of hegemonic masculinity among protestors, centred around the endurance of suffering. While this research aims to make a contribution towards the gender dimension of this conflict, further research may be required to investigate the significance of other intersectional aspects in a political imprisonment context.
Date of AwardMar 2022
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsDepartment for the Economy
SupervisorBrian Payne (Supervisor) & Linda Moore (Supervisor)


  • Political imprisonment
  • Conflict
  • Power
  • Resistance
  • Gender
  • Masculinity
  • Endurance
  • Sexual violence

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