Matériel Culture: The Archaeology of 20th Century Conflict

By John Schofield; William Gray Johnson et al. | Go to book overview

24

Troubling remnants: dealing with the remains of conflict in Northern Ireland

NEIL JARMAN


INTRODUCTION

All conflicts leave physical scars on the landscape as well as on the people who fight and suffer in them, but diverse styles of conflict leave diverse forms of material remains. Wars of invasion fought out by professional armies will create different remnants from conflicts between a guerrilla army and the state; rural and urban conflicts will each produce their own distinctive traces. The nature of the material scars will be different as a result of a short but intensely violent conflict from those left by a long, slow-burning dispute. The time frame will affect both the breadth and variety of remains. A long-running conflict might be expected to generate a much wider and deeper sample of remains but this will also be subjected to considerable change as defences are built and rebuilt and earlier structures replaced with new. This may seem no more than stating the obvious, but the recognition of the nature of the conflict and the acknowledgement of the full range of participants will in turn affect the remains that are accepted as part of the archaeology of war. Furthermore the scale and nature of violent disputes has changed over the years such that many recent and contemporary conflicts do not fit so easily into classical categories of war. Therefore, one must accept that the nature of the material remains will vary and to a great extent the remains will reflect the form and scale of the conflict that generated them. The nature and scale of the conflict will also affect how the physical remains are dealt with, how long they are preserved, how quickly they are removed, and how or whether they might be conserved as a memorial. The nature of the resolution and ending of the conflict may also affect the possibility of their preservation as mimetic devices, whether they can be converted into tourist or educational resources, or whether their physical presence will be razed and their memory erased in an attempt to move forward and reconcile past combatants. All such factors will affect the work of those people and institutions whose interest is in preserving or restoring, or more simply recording and documenting, the remains of military and paramilitary conflicts.

Many of these questions are particularly significant in the case of Northern Ireland as it slowly emerges from thirty years of violent conflict. Northern Ireland is

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