Sites of Social Centrality and Segregation: Lefebvre in Belfast, a “Divided City”



Abstract:  This paper applies Henri Lefebvre's ideas on participatory democracy and spatial politics to the context of “divided cities”, a milieu often overlooked by scholars of Lefebvre. It considers, via Lefebvre, how the heterogeneous and contradictory statist methods to deal with ethno-national violence in Belfast have in effect increased segregated space. State-led approaches to public space as part of conflict transformation strategies appear contradictory, including attempts to “normalize” the city through inward capital investment and cultural regeneration, encouraging cosmopolitan notions of inclusive “civic identity”, and reinforcing segregation to contain violence. These processes have done little to challenge sectarianism. However, as Lefebvre suggests that dominant representations of space cannot be imposed without resistance, this paper considers the alternative strategies of a disparate range of groups in Belfast. These groups have formed cross-cleavage networks to develop ritualized street performances which challenge the programming of public space for segregation.