Intergenerational Transmission and
Ethno-National Identity in the Border Area
This project links two existing centres of research on identity (as it relates to conflict and reconciliation) – the Identity, Diversity and Citizenship Programme within the Geary Institute, University College Dublin, and the School of Psychology, at Queens University Belfast - through a new collaborative project which will investigate intergenerational transmission of ethno-national identity in the border area. The project is supported by the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation (“Peace II”).
It has long been recognized that oppositional identities lie at the root of the Northern Ireland conflict. This project shows how these identities are transmitted within the family, and the social conditions which may precipitate change.
It involves a series of inter-related studies: semi-structured interviews with three generational families; participant observation; a school-centred study to access children’s views of their identity using focus groups, interviews and essays; quantitative measures of identity strength, salience and preference with all participants.
This multi-method approach facilitates the triangulation of results and highlight social and familial mechanisms by which identity is transmitted and crystallised in oppositional form, and indicates the contexts in which identity change occurs.
The results of this research will be promulgated in both academic and policy-related arenas: it will encourage greater understanding of identity development and consolidation and its relationship to macro-social (geographical, economic) and microsocial (family, school) contexts. This will inform mutual understanding and the development of more inclusive modes of identification.
Project dates: March 2004 to April 2006
In Northern Ireland, and particularly in the border area, issues concerning ethno-national identity and choices in relation to it have immediate practical significance. We find here a multiplicity of examples relevant to contemporary theoretical debates. The project allows an exploration of the process of ethno-national identity-formation and analysis of the contexts in which oppositional identities emerge. In addition, the many new forces at work in the border area (e.g., European and global investment, cross-border cooperation, North-South bodies) allow us to investigate the interrelation of institutional and identity change.
Key theoretical issues to which this project is directly relevant include the following:
This list of theoretical issues and concerns is preliminary. Which of these issues will form the core of project publications remains to be worked out in light of the data and of joint discussions within and between participating researchers and teams. There is considerable publication potential. Moreover this brief overview does not deal with contentious theoretical issues with respect to Northern Ireland and the Irish border to which the project is also relevant.
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Ashmore, R.D., K. Deaux and T. McLaughlin-Volpe, 2004. ‘An Organizing framework for collective identity: articulation and significance of multidimensionality’, Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 130, No. 1, 2004. 80-114.
Brubaker, R., 2002. ‘Ethnicity without groups’, Archives Européennes de Sociologies, xlii.2, pp. 163-189.
Castells, M., 1997. The Power of Identity, Vol. II of The Information Age, Oxford: Blackwell.
Chandra, K and D. Laitin. 2002. ‘A framework for thinking about identity change’, paper prepared for presentation at LICEP5, Stanford University, May 11.
Connor, W. 1994. Ethno-nationalism: The Quest for Understanding. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Fearon, J. 1999 ‘What is identity (as we now use the word)?’, unpublished paper, Stanford University.
Gil-White, F. J. 1999. ‘How thick is blood? The plot thickens…: if ethnic actors are primordialists, what remains of the circumstantialist/primordialist controversy?’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22, 5, 1999.
Hopkins, N. and S. Reicher, 1996. ‘The construction of social categories and processes of social change: arguing about national identities’, pp. 69-93 in G. M. Breakwell and E. Lyons, Eds, Changing European Identities: Social Psychological Analyses of Social Change. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Keating, M., 2001. Plurinational Democracy: Stateless Nations in a Post-Sovereignty Era. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Laitin, D. D., 1998. Identity in Formation. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
McAdam, D., C. Tilly and S. Tarrow. 2000. Dynamics of Contention. Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Pollak, A., ed., 1993. A Citizens’ Inquiry: The Opsahl Report on Northern Ireland. Dublin, Lilliput.
Ruane, J. and J. Todd, forthcoming 2005. Dynamics of Conflict and Transition in Northern Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Todd, J. 2005 (forthcoming). 'Social transformation, collective categories and identity change.' Theory and Society, 35.
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This project will directly aid peace building and reconciliation by:
Among the outputs of this research will be a set of policy-relevant tools – in the form of identification of the need for and appropriate forms and stages of intervention to foster the creation of inclusive rather than exclusive forms of identity. These will be promulgated in both academic and policy-related arenas.
It is hoped that the results of this research will inform mutual understanding and will allow us to suggest modes of effective intervention – for example in the educational system and through youth and community groups - in order to promote inclusive rather than exclusive identities and to further peace and reconciliation. It is hoped that the project will also facilitate and increase effective cross-border cooperation.