Parading culture : parades and visual displays in Northern Ireland
This thesis is concerned with the creation and maintenance of the collective memory in contemporary Northern Ireland. It considers which past events are remembered as socially significant, how they are recalled and how this history is used to underpin the sense of difference between the Protestant and Catholic communities. It explores the creation of a social memory from two theoretical perspectives. First by using Paul Connerton's argument to highlight the importance of public ritual occasions at which the significant past is collectively re-enacted. In this case it is the form of the activity that is the focus of interest. Second, I consider the importance of visual images in memory production. These give insight into the meaning that is imposed on the past by those acting in the present. These ideas are then related to Northern Ireland by describing and analysing the major commemorative parades that are held across the province through the "Marching Season" which lasts from Easter to September and the visual displays, that are associated with them. The first section draws out some of the history of the tradition of parading from the 17th century to the present and shows how at times of crisis extra emphasis has been given to visual displays which have steadily expanded in scale and complexity over this period. The ethnographic data then considers how the practice of parading, of displaying painted silk banners and painting murals on the gable walls of houses is used today by both the Nationalist and Unionist communities. I argue that this practice has been intimately linked to the process of creating the sectarian divisions in the north and today it is important in sustaining divisions by emphasising the differences between the two communities and while ignoring much of the shared past.