Summary

  • There are two traditions of mural painting in Northern Ireland, which are indicative of two different relationships to the state.
  • Mural painting is a visible way of claiming territory and affirming identity and a sense of belonging.
  • Changes in mural paintings have denoted changes in each community’s relationship to the state as the peace process has progressed.

How do we know?

Looking for legitimacy

You have looked at a range of agents, institutions, practices and procedures through which states attempt to order aspects of our social lives. And you have seen that the idea of the state involves a constant work of claiming and receiving legitimacy. That is to say, you have been studying the state through its effects on our daily lives and through the routine, often taken-for-granted, ways in which it seeks to shape and regulate society.

You have also seen that the degree to which people acknowledge that state as legitimate is varied. In the examples of the citizenship ceremony and the ways in which different groups in Northern Ireland have sought to mark and claim public space, to represent their political identities in visual form, you have seen that the legitimacy of the state is contested, sometimes violently.

Here you have been ‘reading’ evidence about the legitimacy of the state through a study of its agents, institutions and practices as well as though the ways in which its subjects or citizens represent their vision of the state and their political identities. In particular, the murals of Northern Ireland can be seen as expressing ideas, views or orientations – and need to be ‘read’ as a source of evidence.