The city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, has experienced a major political transformation and urban revitalization since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998. Though the incidence of sectarian violence has declined dramatically since the end of the “Troubles” (i.e., Northern Ireland’s decades-long political conflict), most residential neighborhoods in Belfast remain heavily segregated between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Moreover, sporadic episodes of rioting and property destruction by sectarian youths continue to plague the city, particularly during the annual summer “marching season.” As a relatively new phenomenon in Belfast, skateboarding is especially prevalent in the mostly non-sectarian spaces of the city center. Protestant and Catholic young people often skate together in the same vicinity, thus interacting with the urban “other.” The influence of skateboarding on the collective identities and ethno-religious perceptions of Belfast youth are investigated in this paper, with an emphasis on the role of subcultural spaces in bridging the sectarian divide. Everyday acts of resistance to traditional sectarian norms and values, occurring within the spaces of skateboarding, are described and analyzed. The paper is based primarily on ethnographic observations and semi-structured interviews with skateboarding teens and young adults, conducted by the author in Belfast during July/August 2010.
|Keywords:||Belfast, Skateboarding, Youth Subcultures, Urban Space, Sectarianism, Ethno-religious Identities, Collective Identities, Northern Ireland, Everyday Resistance, Extreme Sports|
Professor, Department of Social Sciences, Iowa Central Community College, Fort Dodge, USA