GIST: 'Everything around us was in shades of grey': political prisoner experiences of Long Kesh-Maze Prison Northern Ireland

When:12 May 2011, 6pm - 7:30pm
Venue:Room 327 Robert Webster Building, UNSW Kensington Campus
Who:Dr Laura McAtackney, John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies, University College Dublin

GLOBAL IRISH STUDIES TALKS (GIST) 2011 SERIES

Dr Laura McAtackney - John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies, University College of Dublin

Long Kesh/Maze prison site in Northern Ireland is most famously associated with the Hunger Strikes of 1981, during which over the course of a summer 10 men - including Bobby Sands MP - died through a systematic campaign of self-starvation. The media images of stark concrete buildings, aerial perspectives of grey H’s, care-free photographs of doomed, young men and the civil unrest that greeted each death, have long dominated representations of the site. However, Long Kesh/Maze was a much more complicated place - both physically and psychologically - with a prolonged history that intimately reflected and indeed influenced the course of ‘the Troubles’ (c1968-c.1998). Exploring the site from its inception as an internment centre in 1971, post-closure in 2001 to present day, this paper will argue that an understanding of how the prison was conceived and experienced by ‘political’ prisoners throughout the course of its life is central to defining its place in a post-conflict state. This study will reveal the hidden realities of confinement, the relationship between imprisonment and conflict and also help to uncover broader truths about human resilience, humour and survival.

Laura McAtackney is currently a visiting scholar at the John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies at UNSW. She is a postdoctoral research fellow at the John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies at University College Dublin exploring issues of memory and identity in Irish landscape through an interdisciplinary methodology based in archaeology. This research intends to explore memory and identity through a number of diverse case-studies - from local perceptions of the Hill of Tara to the creation of peace lines in Belfast - as a means of understanding how people relate to their environment in the island of Ireland and in doing so explore different conceptions of ‘Irishness’ through time and space.

Watch the lecture here on UNSWTV

Contact: Angela McLoughlin | T: 02 9385 7164 | E: irish@unsw.edu.au

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