For this essay, I have chosen to look into the Northern Ireland ethnography in terms of how spatial organization symbolizes basic principles of society. Basic principles of society, such as social organization, ethnic segmentation and political hierarchy can be symbolised by the physical organization and layout of space with the ethnographies provided by Buckey and Kennedy (1979) and Larsen (1977). Here, they engaged in fieldwork in towns in Northern Ireland.
The mentioned anthropologists studied the ethnic conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants, determining how these ethnic communities kept ethnic boundaries and why after centuries of tension, have been able to persist as two separate groups. The basic principles of Northern Irish society are based on this ethnic dichotomization , where among other forms of layout and organization of space, territory and territorial organization layout has assisted in the maintenance of the ethnic conflict up to today. Territory entails a primordial aspect of Catholic and Protestant ethnicity.
The Catholics legitimise their presence in Northern Ireland, as well as their existence as an ethnic community, in territorial terms. During the “plantation” (late 16th/17th century), Catholic land ownership was replaced with Protestants, and the Catholics were disenfranchised as confronting a disrupted industry and trade. This historical series of events has become rhetoric in Irish teachings as basic ideas of reciprocity (Catholics want their right to land ownership back i. e. to remove protestants from Northern Ireland) and morality (Protestant invasion was wrong) are still very strongly held in the Catholic community.
As a result, the towns affected by the “Plantation Period” now populate a majority of Protestants in urban areas and the majority of Catholics in rural areas. First, this reflects the power structure of Northern Irish society; because Protestants are Marjory populated in cities, they have power over the industrialization of the society, as well as government. The Catholic ethnic groups are therefore a minority, although not “ethnically suppressed”, as both Catholics and Protestants indulge in a “siege mentality” e. g. the Protestants refer back to the siege of London-Derry and the Catholics from the “Plantation period”.
This idea of invasion and be looked through Durkheim’s concept of “sacred and profane”. This territory is the sacred whole outside the territory lies the profane. Moreover, territorial segregation (rural vs. urban, Catholic neighbourhood vs. Protestant neighbourhood) symbolizes Northern Irish social organization and ethnic segregation. Communities operate in different ethnic “networks” hence a territorial segregation. One of the reasons being endogamy. Parents and friends fear that children might be tempted to convert to the other side and so separate social institutions are developed later.
Moreover, exogamy is frowned upon as you are leaving “your side” in favour of the “other side”. Territorial segregation also portrays the degree of ethnic segregation in a particular town. If towns are separated ethnically by streets ethnic tension and a type of avoidance relation is strong. Of course, there are towns where Catholics and Protestants have integrated social relations but this can lead to a dilemma (of impression management) when trying to keep face as a “decent person” and “one community”. This can be explained by using the frontstage analogy by keeping face while maintaining ethnicity in the backstage.
Moreover, in areas where territorial ethnic integration is common (Protestants and Catholics in the same neighbourhood), people find ways of “probing” cultural identities that serve to identify a person to an ethnic community e. g. “Are you a Protestant or are you a Catholic”? 1 For example, colours are strongly linked to each respective ethnic community e. g. the colour Green is tightly connected to the Catholics and Orange the same for the Protestants. These colours metacommunicate a person’s ethnic state as well as their political connection.
As mentioned above, avoidance relations play an important role in the social organization of Northern Irish society. Avoidance relationships are social distances pronounced when social relations are undecided. Relations between Protestants and Catholics are a bit unsure because of the underlying threat of violence, which has caused the deaths of many Catholics and Protestants in ethnic conflicts, respectively. Other than territory, layout and organization of space also involde social structure or/and institutions. In “Killbraney”, where Larsen conducted her fieldworld, most all structures were duplicated, except the Protestant government.
Each Catholic shop will have a corresponding Protestant shop, as will sport legaues, marching bands and especially schools. Schools are part of the socialization of children and thus children are taught to learn and understand the history of Norhtern Ireland in terms of their own ethnic heritage e. g. “History as a rhetoric”. The root of the ethnic conflict between Protestants and Catholics, namely their respective “siege mentaility” is itself a binary opposition. Both communities feel as if they are being besieged by the other e. g. the evil invaders vs. he innocent victims.
The idea of siege, or rather “invasion”, is also very perosnal.. Catholics and Protestants see the invasion of the Plantation preiod and London-Derry as a personal attack, respectively. The feeling of invasion is intesifeid when compared to ideas of rape, as Catholics refer to their country as “Mother Ireland” and Protestants named London-Derry “The Mainden city”. Therefore, we can conclude that spatial orginizations between the two ethnic groups can be linked to the basic principles of the Northern Irish society.