Spectres of Peace: Civic Participation in Northern Ireland

Bell, Vikki. 2004. Spectres of Peace: Civic Participation in Northern Ireland. Social and legal studies, 13(3), pp. 403-428. ISSN 0964-6639 [Article]


Download (175kB) | Preview
[img] Text (Publisher's format, available with permission on secure intranet)
SOC-Bell-Spectres_PUB.pdf - Published Version
Permissions: GRO Registered Users Only

Download (4kB)

Abstract or Description

Understanding the Civic Forum in Northern Ireland as part of a new modeof governance that the Belfast Agreement and the Northern Ireland Act 1998 sought to make possible, the Forum can be analysed as a technology of Peace that has in turn invited the fashioning of a new democratic subject. This ‘subject’, moreover, is operating not merely within a new institutional space and within new processes but within a new ethical landscape. Thus while the participatory ethos links the Forum’s work to much wider changes in the notion of ‘democracy’, the specificities of the Forum’s context - its role as part of the Peace process set against Northern Ireland’s history of conflict - give its work a further particular purpose with a complex temporal dimension. The new landscape is one in which the ‘call to Peace’ is foregrounded, initiating a complex relationship to what has been, what ‘is’ and what the future potentially holds. Peace, it is argued here, requires a performative call to the future, a call for a new spirit. But this new spirit is one that cannot be simply conjured, marketed and distributed like an easy sentimentality, not least because sentimentality simply ignores the present’s tie to the past. Rather, the pursuit of Peace has to be sought in the messiness of the present, and has therefore to be open to the heterogeneity of ‘the past’. Competing injunctions arise from the spirits of the past, urging those in the present to follow divergent paths. Following Derrida’s Spectres of Marx(1994), it is argued that these ghosts cannot be simply banished. As this study of the Civic Forum illustrates, how the Forum positions itself, both institutionally and procedurally, necessarily involves the negotiation of notions of past and future. The successful pursuit of Peace will be dependent upon how those in the present receive the ghosts of the past and how they can allow for their enjoining as a condition of that future’s very possibility.

Item Type:



Northern Ireland; Belfast Agreement; Peace; Performance; Derrida; Civic participation.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology > Centre for Study of Invention and Social Process (CSISP) [2003-2015]



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

22 Mar 2007

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:28

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)