Defying State Amnesia and Memory Wars: Non-Sectarian Memory Activism in Beirut and Belfast City Centres

John Nagle* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


In divided societies that endure intrastate violence, ethnonational groups harness memory to support claims for territorial sovereignty and victimhood. Yet, in peace processes, rather than seek to deal with the legacy of the past, the state often enacts a culture of amnesia to support the logic of political transition, while at the communal level the rival ethnic groups proliferate commemorative practices as part of memorywars. These twin forces – amnesia and ethnicized memory – are also often embedded into postconflict urban reconstruction, particularly the city centres of the municipal capitals. In this paper, I explore how non-sectarian movements imprint memory into city centre space to challenge the paradoxical forces of forgetting and ethnic communal remembrance. Towards this, I explore the memorywork of non-sectarian groups whose politics transcend established ethnic cleavages, such as trade unionists, movements resisting the privatization of public space and activists mobilizing to protect public services. In this paper I draw on a range of theoretical frameworks, including reflective nostalgia and ghosts and hauntings. Using fieldwork data, I look at non-sectarian memorywork in Beirut and Belfast city centres. These city centres generate contrasting uses and meanings for the local population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-401
Number of pages22
JournalSocial & Cultural Geography
Issue number3
Early online date20 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by the Leverhulme Trust [RG13732-10].


  • memory
  • nostalgia
  • social movements
  • peacebuilding
  • Northern Ireland
  • Lebanon
  • Memory


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