2012 Virtual Edition: Jeff Sluka

Postscript to Cultures of Terror and Resistance in Northern Ireland

Published in 1995, this article describes the structure and symbiotic nature of the relationship between the cultures of Irish national resistance and British colonial domination that evolved in Northern Ireland from the outbreak of “The Troubles” (or war) in 1969 to the emergence of the peace process and IRA ceasefire in 1994. Since then, despite eighteen years of on-going ‘peace process,’ political violence has continued in Northern Ireland and a situation ethnographers of conflict and war today characterize as ‘not-war-not-peace’ has prevailed there.

While the guns have been relatively silent since the war ended, political violence has continued, though at a reduced rate. The main loyalist paramilitary groups have continued to refuse to disarm and appear to have little intention of doing so, despite this being a fundamental requirement of the peace process. They have done so in order to preserve the threat or option of a return to violence in response to any political movement towards a united Ireland, a growing possibility as Catholic-nationalists have become a voting majority in the province over the next decade. This demographic shift is the reason why the IRA ended their armed campaign; now that Catholics are a majority in Northern Ireland for the first time since partition, the Republican Movement believes they can achieve a united Ireland through peaceful, democratic means.

Thus, in subsequent publications (e.g., “In the Shadow of the Gun: Not-War-Not-Peace and the Future of Conflict in Northern Ireland,” Critique of Anthropology 29, vol. 3 (2009): 279-99), I have argued that there is no real or true peace yet, the peace process has not been successfully completed, and the prognosis for the future of political violence in Northern Ireland is not good.  As the inevitable direct threat of a united Ireland develops in coming years, history and Ulster-Protestant political culture suggest that the most likely future scenario is a resurgence of loyalist violence and a renewed paramilitary threat, rather than a real and lasting peace.


Jeffrey Sluka with ‘Culture of Resistance’ mural, Springfield Road, Belfast, 1992.

Jeffrey Sluka is the author of Hearts and Minds, Water and Fish: Popular Support for the IRA and INLA in a Northern Irish Ghetto (JAI Press, 1989). He has also edited Death Squad: The Anthropology of State Terror (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000) and (with Antonius Robben) Ethnographic Fieldwork: An Anthropological Reader (Blackwell, 2007).