Skip to main content

Since the signing of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement of 1998, Northern Ireland has made significant progress towards a postcolonising transformation of its political culture and its major political and social institutions, as it has shifted away from violence and the dominance of political ideologies structured by the friend–enemy distinction. These ideological formations and the practices of social and political antagonism that they prescribed have been challenged by adversary–neighbor ideological formations that construct identities and relations through more inclusive norms of recognition and that support a more complex emotional constellation. However, as this cultural transformation has been neither thoroughgoing nor universal, Northern Ireland finds itself in the somewhat counter-intuitive situation in which the shift away from the violence of the past has increased, rather than reduced, the ontological insecurity of its citizens. Moreover, as ontological security may be supported by either friend–enemy or adversary–neighbour ideological formations, two distinct ways in which ontological security may collapse or re-configure have emerged in Northern Ireland.

John Cash is an Honorary Fellow in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, and an editor of Postcolonial Studies and a co-editor of Political Psychology. His research interests are in the area of psychoanalytic social theory and psychoanalytic political theory. One focus of that research is an analysis of the conflict in Northern Ireland and the more recent attempts at reconciliation. His publications with that focus include Identity, Ideology and Conflict (Cambridge 1996,) and “Squaring some vicious circles: transforming the political in Northern Ireland” in Consociational Theory, (Routledge, 2009).

Back to top