Managing culture in post-conflict societies

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17 Citations (Scopus)


An extensive literature has paid attention to the role of cultural identity and symbols as markers of ethnic conflict. Yet we do not understand fully whether cultural expressions at the heart of the conflict are transformed into a new post-conflict symbolic landscape or whether they remain the source of ongoing cultural contestation. I explore this question by investigating cultural contestation in post-Agreement Macedonia and Northern Ireland. Theoretically, I consider the importance of cultural differences in the integration versus accommodation debate on constitutional design in divided societies. Empirically, I draw on original research from the two cases whereby the respective peace agreements were designed to manage a self-determination dispute. First, I argue that symbolic controversies relating to cultural emblems, flags and insignia pose a particular kind of test for the stability of power-sharing systems. In such instances ethnic elites are faced with the wider legacy and competing narratives of the conflict. In accommodationist systems, where the groups' cultural identity is to be promoted in both private and public spheres, instances of cultural contestation will likely trigger considerable political wrangling between ethnic parties in the search for compromise.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-71
Number of pages17
JournalContemporary Social Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


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