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Patriotism, Protest Politics and Political Violence


This two day workshop sets out to explore and discuss the themes of protest, patriotism and violence and their manifestation today, across Europe and globally.

2018 saw many political leaders using an identity appeal when addressing their voters: Donald Trump proudly declared himself as “nationalist”, while Emmanuel Macron have preferred to regard himself as “patriot”. Since, while many elites and parties rhetorically reject the reference to nationalism in the form that bedevilled the first part of the twentieth century, allusion to patriotic feelings of the public is ubiquitous. A revival of and the prominent role identity plays in politics over the last decade has gone in hand with the growth in support for populist, as well as radical right forces, increase of anti-government protests and a belated recognition of the increasing threat posed by militancy on the right-side of political spectrum. Is nationalism making a come-back in the form of “banal patriotism”?

We invite papers looking at the overlap in themes of patriotism, protest and violence against political representatives and governments from across the globe. We particularly welcome comparative perspectives and analyses of regions/states that, unlike Northern Ireland, are deemed politically stable, not classified as ethnically divided, or grappling with effects of debilitating intergroup violence of the past. What lessons can we learn from the changing dynamics of protest? What does this tell us for government/citizen relations? What are the reasons for growing scepticism about the political elites and what effects does public distrust in traditional forms of political representation has in explaining this? What form of protest occur as a result of the growing ascendance the references to patriotism in public domain and media?

We aim to feature the contemporary research on the intersection of protest, patriotism and political violence, including new research by established academics as well as by early career scholars. Proposals for papers should include contact details of the author(s), title and an abstract of no more than 200 words. The final deadline for the electronic submission of paper proposals is 31 January 2022. 


There is no conference registration fee; the organisers will endeavour to provide a select pool of graduate students/early career academics with a bursary to partially cover  travel expenses to Belfast to join the event in person. We will be reviewing the epidemiological situation continuously and will inform participants at the time of the acceptance, if the event will take place online. Our hope is to conduct the event in person, situation permitting.

Why Northern Ireland? Why May 2022?

This workshop commences against the backdrop of elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly (taking place on 5th May 2022). There are two competing and opposing nationalisms in Northern Ireland; one looks to retain its British identity and place as part of the United Kingdom while one aims to secure unification with the Republic of Ireland. These competing visions have bedevilled Northern Ireland since its foundation, fostered a 30 year armed conflict before a peace settlement was agreed by the British and Irish governments and most major parties in 1998. The Good Friday Agreement, which was placed within a wider EU context, did not solve the ‘national’ question but postponed it for resolution at a later date. It was always a fragile peace.

The process of conflict transformation since has been slow but steady and has allowed the sensitivities of the two core visions to be largely masked. Brexit, however, changed the political landscape and  opened up old issues of national identity. The terms of the subsequent Northern Ireland Protocol and specifically the’ Irish Sea border’ has fed unease, suspicion and violence in unionist areas, as well as wider questions about trust in the British government.

The 2022 elections may prove to be a monumental moment in the 100 year history of Northern Ireland if an Irish nationalist party emerges as the electoral winner for the very first time. What does this mean in the context of consociational powersharing arrangement, for the future of Northern Ireland and the two competing ethnopolitical identities? Though the spectre of Irish unification is often conjured by some commentators, this is far from a foregone conclusions as at the moment, the median Northern Ireland voter seem content with the constitutional status within the UK. Will the new circumstances generate protest politics among unionist/loyalist community and what does this mean? Is the peace agreement finished? How deep is the rift between the communities and political elites they elect? Are the existing political parties ready for the urgently needed common solutions and an agreed future? Is there a possibility of renewed violence?  These questions are at the centre of Northern Ireland’s public debates since the Brexit referendum and increasingly so as discussions on the NI Protocol have been making headlines. Holding the workshop in Belfast around the key moment in live of postconflict consociational democracy in May will allow us to reflect on challenges underpinning political process, representation and the reasons for public engagement with politics on British Isles, Europe and globally.

Organisers: Prof. Lee McGowan and Dr Timofey Agarin, Centre for the Study of Ethnic Conflict, School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics.

5 - 6 May 2022 Belfast, Northern Ireland
Call for Papers open until 31 Jan 2022