Author Archives: lsmithe1

Great Craic in a Divided Irish City

Here’s a repost of an article about the Northern Ireland Semester that appeared in the July 2008 issue of the Swarthmore College Bulletin.

By Carol Brévart-Demm

Maurice Weeks (left) and Reina Chano (right) met 1998 Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume.


Although Chano and Weeks each took two courses at the University of Ulster and attended additional lectures organized by Crossan, their placements in community organizations were the focus of their activities in Northern Ireland.

Chano worked with the Verbal Arts Centre, an educational charity group that sponsors a variety of programs, all centered on providing Northern Ireland communities with a safe place and space to “tell your story.” She assisted with the Centre’s community relations programs for young children from segregated schools, aimed at confronting the differences among and between Catholics/Nationalist/Republicans and Protestant/Unionists/Loyalists and encouraging children to interact, work together, and learn from each other. She has been designing a new community relations curriculum whose pilot program has been very successful, she says. “As someone with a growing interest in education, it has been an incredibly rewarding and challenging experience. Absolutely great craic!” She explains that craic means “good-natured Irish fun.”

Weeks worked with the Holywell Trust, an organization seeking to foster peace-building through healing, understanding, and cooperation. He undertook, among other activities, a project on immigrants in Derry: “The immigration population, especially from Eastern Europe, has greatly increased with the introduction of expanded European Union working provisions. Some groups of immigrants have expressed difficulties living in Northern Irish society.” Weeks was delighted when a local community worker offered to help him organize focus groups and interviews. “It’s amazing how open he was to my research plan,” Weeks says.

“From a Peace and Conflict Studies perspective, it’s interesting to be participating in the transition process, where a lot of the legacies of the Troubles have to be dealt with and yet, it’s a kind of model of conflict transformation,” Smithey says.


Announcing a new book by Lee Smithey on conflict transformation in Northern Ireland

Prof. Lee Smithey’s new book, Unionists, Loyalists, and Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland, is now available from Oxford University Press. Lee is a faculty advisor for the Northern Ireland Semester and conducts much of his research in the region.

Drawing on almost twenty years of studying and traveling to Northern Ireland, including sustained periods of intensive fieldwork, Smithey focuses on the importance of collective identity change that is central to conflict transformation. He argues that it is important for ethnopolitical division to be addressed from within ideologically committed quarters of divided societies. In this case, he finds that many unionists and loyalists are modifying symbolic and often ritualistic expressions of collective identity that have often been considered divisive, such as parades, bonfires, and murals, and are making them less polarizing. The development and modification of these activities provide opportunities for the incremental reframing of fundamental ethnopolitical ideas and narratives. If you are interested in studying peace processes from grassroots psychocultural angles, this book might appeal to you.

Electronic resources on Northern Ireland

Information Technology Services has installed two interactive resources on the PC in the Sociology and Anthropology lab in Kohlberg Hall. Both pertain to Northern Ireland, but have broader relevance to political contention (violent, nonviolent, and institutional), material culture, ethnicity, nationalism, propaganda, etc.

If you would like to access these resources, please contact Rose Maio in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology about lab hours and access to the lab.

On the PC’s desktop, you will find two icons:

One is for A State Apart an interactive history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland with video, audio interviews, timelines, journalism, and documents.  It provides an excellent overview of the conflict in a very compelling way. (This would be an excellent primer for students planning to study in Northern Ireland.)

The second is for Troubled Images a resource produced by the Political Collection of the Linenhall Library in Belfast. They have scanned thousands of images and documents from the collection and organized them in a searchable database which is now in the SOAN lab. Here you will find posters, campaign leaflets, photographs, political cartoons, lapel pins, flags, stamps, etc. etc.

Many thanks to ITS for making this resource available to us and our students.

Welcome to the Northern Ireland Semester blog

We are happy to announce the launch of this blog for the Northern Ireland Semester from Swarthmore College (and our partners, the Irish School of Ecumenics). Stay tuned here for announcements about the program and updates from students and faculty. 

In 2008, we created a podcast about the program that prospective participants might find helpful. 

from left to right: Jessa Deutsch ’10, Maurice Weeks ’09Lee Smithey, Reina Chano ’09, Denise Crossan, Adree Wallace