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Why are the political polarities of Northern Ireland so intractable? Why, in a society riven by class division, do Northern Ireland's people identify most strongly with the nationalist and religious groupings of British Protestant versus Irish Catholic? Why, after over thirty years of violence and death, is dialogue about the future so difficult to create and sustain?
In The Troubles in Ballybogoin, William F. Kelleher Jr. examines the patterns of avoidance and engagement deployed by people in the western region of Northern Ireland and compares them to colonial patterns of settlement and retreat. The book shows how social memories inform and are strengthened by mundane aspects of daily life—the paths people use to move through communal spaces, the bodily movements involved in informal social encounters that mark political identities, and the "holiday" marches that displace citizens for the day and divide cross-community friendships.
The Troubles in Ballybogoin is the story of Ireland, its historical conundrums, its violence. It details the location of historical memory in the politics of the everyday and the colonial modernities that so often nurture long-term conflict.
"This is a wonderful contribution to Irish studies, postcolonial studies, and anthropology. Its approach to the everyday practices of segregation and everyday discourses of identity is very original and brings to the fore the ambiguities that characterize postcolonial spaces."
—Begona Aretxaga, University of Texas, Austin
"William Kelleher's The Troubles in Ballybogoin makes a crucial contribution to the anthropological literature on contemporary Northern Ireland. It is no less a valuable intervention in debates in Irish and in Postcolonial studies, addressing both areas without losing sight of the specific methods and predicaments of the ethnographer. Kelleher's careful mapping of public and marginalized spaces through the everyday practices of each community addresses very successfully and very accurately the lived experience of negotiating sectarian spaces. It is a book that will be widely read and greatly appreciated."
—David Lloyd, Hartley Burr Alexander Professor in the Humanities, Scripps College
"More than a tour—a moving narrative—Kelleher explores how space, history, and memory are contested in Northern Ireland. Analytic and empathic, this is an outstanding work of historical ethnography."
—David Stark, Arnold A. Saltzman Professor of Sociology and International Affairs, Columbia University
"Written with compassion and wisdom borne of long and intimate association with people and place, this exemplary ethnography is among the best books on Northern Ireland, and one of the very few that makes human sense of daily sectarian life."
—Lawrence Taylor, Professor and Head of the Department of Anthropology, National University of Ireland, Maynooth
"Bill Kelleher deftly explores the crucial issue of identity. Living elbow to elbow in the small space of Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant have formed intricate views of themselves and each other. The unhappy result, Kelleher notes, has been fear, mistrust and conflict. . . .With a keen eye and discerning ear, Bill Kelleher brings the reader into the heart of Northern Ireland and its long, tragic conflict. Northern Ireland, in all its complexity, is authentically rendered. . . .As the Troubles raged, outsiders were typically kept at arm's length, but Bill Kelleher was able to step closer and glimpse Northern Ireland's essential truths."
—Robert Conolly, former staff reporter and frequent contributor of op-ed columns for the Boston Herald on Northern Ireland and on the peace process, and writer and co-director of a Northern Ireland-based documentary film, The Road to Reconciliation
"A surefire read for anyone who has an interest in the current situation Northern Ireland, and wants to increase their knowledge of the political background."
". . . a valuable book—clear-eyed, heart-rending, wry, by turns both hopeful and dour. Kelleher develops the connection between memory and identity in rich and revealing ways. Devotees of Ireland . . . will discover an acute analysis of the contemporary predicament."
"Kelleher's book is a positive contribution toward increasing the understanding of the complexity of the Troubles. Such an understanding is an important component of any peaceful resolution of the entrenched conflict in the north of Ireland. Kelleher's book is a contribution not only to Irish studies but also to anthropology and postcolonial studies in general."
—Journal of American Folklore