Skateboarding Spaces of Youth in Belfast: Negotiating Boundaries, Transforming Identities

By David Drissel.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.115-138. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1013.631KB).

Prof. David Drissel

Professor, Department of Social Sciences, Iowa Central Community College, Fort Dodge, USA

David Drissel is a professor of social sciences at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, Iowa. His undergraduate work included a double major in political science and sociology. His graduate studies focused on comparative politics, international relations, social change and development, and social movements. Research interests include transnational social movements and computer-mediated communication, nations/states undergoing political/economic transition, youth subcultures and collective identities, the global politics of Internet governance, juvenile delinquency and subterranean values, diasporic youth and social networking, and the role of interactive media and popular culture in mobilizing social networks. Professor Drissel is a two-time Fulbright Scholar who has studied extensively in China and the Czech/Slovak Republics, among many other countries. A frequent speaker and conference participant, he has had several papers published in various academic journals and compilations. He is an alumnus of the Oxford (University) Roundtable in Great Britain, where he presented a paper on Internet governance, which was later published in the Cambridge Review of International Affairs.