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Contentious Rituals Synopsis

Throughout the world, in a great variety of cultures, divisive monuments, ceremonies, and processions assert and reinforce claims to territory, legitimacy, and dominance. These contested symbols and rituals strengthen and lend meaning to communal boundaries; confer and renew identities; and inflame tensions between groups, polarizing communities and, at times, triggering violence. In Contentious Rituals, Jonathan S. Blake focuses on one such controversial tradition: Protestant parades in the streets of Northern Ireland. Marchers say they are celebrating their culture and commemorating their history, as they have done for two centuries. Catholics see the parades as carnivals of bigotry and strident assertions of power. The result is heightened inter-communal friction and occasional violence. Drawing on over 80 interviews, an original survey, and ethnographic observations, Blake investigates why participants choose to march in parades that are known to be a primary source of sectarian conflict today. His analysis reveals their reasons for acting, the meanings supplied to them, and how they make sense of the contention that surrounds them. Ultimately, he discovers, many paraders are not interested in the politics of their actions at all, but rather in allure of the action itself: the satisfactions of joining with others to express a collective identity and carry on a cherished tradition. An insightful exploration of the characteristics and dynamics of nationalism in action, Contentious Rituals offers an innovative approach to the contested politics of culture in divided societies and a new explanation for an old source of conflict in Northern Ireland.

Contentious Rituals Press Reviews

Jonathan Blake has produced a superb analysis of why the Protestant parading tradition continues to fascinate, excite, attract and repel in Northern Ireland. Drawing upon wide-ranging interviews with participants and observers and extensively researched throughout, Contentious Rituals offers a clear account of the importance of collective identity which underpins parades. The book is essential reading for scholarly understanding of the persistence of ritualistic divisions. * Jonathan Tonge, University of Liverpool * This book provides both a beautifully researched examination of Orange parades in Northern Ireland and a wonderful, theoretically nuanced, exploration of participation in ritual practices. As such, it makes an important contribution to the understanding of ethnic divisions in Ireland and to the central role played by ritual in contemporary populist politics. * Dominic Bryan, Queen's University, Belfast * Blake writes with sensitivity, even beauty, about what contentious rituals mean to participants. Through remarkable ethnographic work, he teaches us that emotions can matter no less than political outcomes, with profound consequences for surrounding communities. * Ron E. Hassner, author of Religion on the Battlefield * [E]ssential reading... [A] book which has as its greatest strength the space it gives participants to speak for themselves... Contentious Rituals is not uncritical of parading, the way it has been managed, and its often divisive impact in Northern Ireland. But Blake's depiction of paraders is refreshingly human. * Gladys Ganiel, Queen's University Belfast, Slugger O'Toole * [A] fresh and innovative study... [Blake] provides real insight into the pride, prejudice and pleasure in agency which motivate their participation; elucidates the will among paraders to express their collective identity and to protect their traditions; and reveals the limits of established approaches to the study of participation in 'contentious' collective action.... Contentious Rituals undoubtedly contains new and important insights for even the most seasoned of Northern Ireland scholars, as well as those with an interest in the politics of peace and conflict in deeply divided societies more generally. * Jonathan Evershed, University College Cork, Irish Political Studies * [E]xemplary, insightful, and comprehensive Blake does an excellent job presenting theoretical issues associated with collective behavior of this kind. The book's greatest strength, however, lies in the unique data that he has collected to allow him to test social theory. Contentious Rituals is a welcome addition to the literature on social movements and collective behavior, with implications for understanding participation in contentious rituals and ethnic conflict that extend far beyond Northern Ireland. * Robert W. White, IU School of Liberal Arts, Mobilization *

Book Information

ISBN: 9780190915582
Publication date: 5th March 2019
Author: Jonathan S. (Visiting Fellow, Global Policy Initiative,, Visiting Fellow, Global Policy Initiative,, Columbia University Blake
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 248 pages
Categories: Sociology: customs & traditions, Nationalism,

About Jonathan S. (Visiting Fellow, Global Policy Initiative,, Visiting Fellow, Global Policy Initiative,, Columbia University Blake

Jonathan S. Blake is an associate political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California.

More About Jonathan S. (Visiting Fellow, Global Policy Initiative,, Visiting Fellow, Global Policy Initiative,, Columbia University Blake

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