Degree Date



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


History of Art


In post-Agreement Northern Ireland, issues of cultural identity have risen to the forefront of regional political and communal discourse. Demands for equality, recognition, and cultural parity of esteem on the part of Protestant and Catholic communities often unfold through disputes over contested cultural expressions such as flags, murals, parades, heritage sites, monuments, and languages. Problematically, intercommunal hostilities increase when groups feel as though their esteemed symbols are being denigrated or threatened. As both state agencies and communal organizations work to resolve these disputes through policymaking and peacebuilding initiatives, local entrepreneurial actors are simultaneously refashioning these cultural symbols to make the area more attractive to tourists and potential investors.

This study investigates the role of tourism development, place marketing, and urban staging in cultural identity politics and conflict transformation in post-Agreement Belfast, the center of Northern Ireland’s tourism industry. The primary argument is that these image-led regeneration strategies physically and discursively refashion the built environment and the contested narratives expressed therein. Furthermore, this process can either exacerbate or inhibit intergroup conflict through the development of more exclusive or inclusive narratives and representations of conflict respectively.

Based on interdisciplinary theoretical research, empirical on-site study (2005-2011), and interviews with local actors and stakeholders, this dissertation presents: 1) a conceptual analysis of the convergence of Tourism and urban staging in cultural identity politics and conflict transformation, 2) an analysis of tourism development and urban regeneration in Belfast following the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement (1998), and 3) an investigation of the impact of tourism development on Two cultural expressions that have long served to reinforce divisions between Catholic and Protestant communities, namely Belfast ́s political Murals and the Irish language; the latter is examined by looking at the Current attempt to retheme Catholic West Belfast as an urban Gaeltacht Quarter.

By examining the ways in which tourism and place marketing act upon monuments, ideology, memory, and social conflict within the urban environment, this dissertation establishes the often-overlooked significance of urban entrepreneurial development on reconstruction, identity politics, and peacebuilding in cities seeking to overcome social and spatial division.


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