Dr Dominic Bryan

Dr Dominic Bryan

BSc (Ulster), MPhil (Cambridge), DPhil (Ulster)

Director of Institute of Irish Studies and Reader in Social Anthropology

E-mail: d.bryan@qub.ac.uk  
Telephone: +44 (0) 28 9097 3386
Office: 01.002 6 Fitzwilliam Street

Research Interests

Political anthropology; public ritual; public order and policing; symbolism; ethnicity; nationalism and group identity; research methods; anthropology and public policy; Irish history; Orangeism, use of history and invention of tradition; the mass media; social theory.

Current Research

Dr Bryan has developed a research agenda exploring rituals, symbols and memory as they influence identity and social space in Ireland. Much of his early research focused upon Orange parades in Northern Ireland (see Orange Parades: Ritual tradition and Control, Pluto Press 2000) but the research now covers a much broader range of rituals and activities including St Patrick’s Day, The Lord Mayor’s Show and Carnival in Belfast. In addition, Dr Bryan has a major four year project looking at the popular flying of flags in Northern Ireland.

In November 2001, Dr Bryan and Dr Gill McIntosh were awarded substantial funding under the ESRC Devolution and Constitutional Change Research Programme to explore attempts to represent or imagine the new political dispensation in Northern Ireland through rituals and symbols. The research focused on official endeavors by public bodies to intervene in symbolic conflict through policy and practice as well as examining historical changes, discourses, formal and informal policies and practice over the use of symbols and rituals. It particularly examined the ways in which issues of representation have been dealt with since the signing of the Belfast Agreement and the start of devolved government. Included as cases studies in the research were royal visits, the flying of flags and the support of popular public events.

In 2005 Dr Bryan, Prof Sean Connolly and Dr Gill McIntosh won a further major ESRC grant to study of the formation and public expression of identity in Belfast, combining a long term historical study with an anthropological investigation of recent developments. The historical study constructed a comprehensive festive calendar for the city across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, then proceed to more detailed research into specific events and practices, and into particular points of discontinuity. The anthropological research, conducted with Dr. John Nagle (University of Ulster), identified changes and continuities in the contemporary festive calendar, exploring policy towards the use of public space in the city and the implications for future policy in the changing nature of such space.

Since 2005, Dr Bryan with Dr Clifford Stevenson (University of Limerick) and Dr Gordon Gillespie (Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University), have been examining the use of flags and emblems in public spaces in Northern Ireland (funded by the First and Deputy First Ministers Office in Northern Ireland). This research includes surveys of public space in Northern Ireland examining when flags and other emblems are being displayed and when they are being taken down. In addition, attitude surveys (conducted by the Northern Ireland Life and Times) and ethnographic case studies add richness to understandings of these public practices.

From 2008, a further ESRC/IRCHSS funded project in partnership with Prof. Steve Reicher (St. Andrews University) and Prof. Orla Muldoon and Dr. Clifford Stevenson (University of Limerick) will examine St Patrick’s Day and the commemoration of the Easter Rising in Belfast and Dublin. Our research aims to examine these events to see how they work to represent the Irish national community and to transform this shared understandings. Firstly we will examine how those organising each of the event use the symbols and images from the events to broadcast their own 'brand' of Irishness through the media. Then we will talk to people attending the events, as well as those who do not, to see how actually being present at these public occasions affects the way people think about their own Irishness.

In all this research Dr Bryan examines the policy implications of the way public space is utilised and how it influences people identity. As such, the outcomes of the research have implications for conflict resolution and understanding why violent conflict has been such a part of Northern Ireland’s recent history and why violence has diminished.

Select Publications

Bryan D. (2012), 'Titanic town: Living in a landscape of conflict' in Belfast 400: People, Place and History. Connolly, S.J. (ed.) Liverpool UP.

Bryan, D. , Templer, S. & Kelly, L.  (2011), ‘The failed paradigm of “terrorism”' in  Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 1, pp. 1-17.

Bryan, D. (2011), ‘Des droits civils au carnival: anthropologie de l’espace public à Belfast’ in Ethnologie Française, 41, pp. 289-300

Bryan, D. & Stevenson, C. (2009) ‘Flagging Peace: Struggles over Symbolic Landscape in the New Northern Ireland’ in: Culture and belonging in divided Societies: Contestation and Symbolic Landscapes. Ross, M. H. (ed.). University of Pennsylvania Press.

Connolly, S. & Bryan, D. (2009), ‘Identity, Social Action and Public Space: Defining Civic Space in Belfast’ in Theorizing Identities and Social Action (Identity Studies in the Social Sciences). Wetherell, M. (ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.

Bryan D (2007) ‘The Anthropology of Ritual: Monitoring and Stewarding Demonstrations in Northern Ireland’ in Anthropology in Action. Vol.13: 1-2, pp22-32.

Bryan, D and G. McIntosh (2007) 'Symbols and Identity in the "New" Northern Ireland' in Devolution and Constitutional Change in Northern Ireland  pp. 125-137 (eds) Paul Carmichael, Colin Knox R.Osborn. Manchester University Press.

O’Kelly, C and D. Bryan (2007) ‘The Regulation of Public Space in Northern Ireland’ Irish Political Studies Vol 22, No.4 pp.565-584.

Bryan, D (2007) Between the national and the civic: Flagging peace in, or a piece of, Northern Ireland? in Flag, Nation and Symbolism in Europe and America (eds) Thomas Hylland Erikson and Richard Jenkins. London: Routledge.

Flagging Identities: Assessing the Display and Regulation of Political Symbols Across Northern Ireland in 2006 in Shared Space, iv (2007)

Bryan, D (2006). ‘Traditional Parades, Conflict and Change: Orange Parades and Other Rituals in Northern Ireland 1960-2000’ in Political Rituals in the United Kingdom, 1700-2000 (ed) Michael Schaich, London: German Historical Institute for London. 

Bryan, D (2006). ‘New Colours for the Orange State?: Finding Symbolic Space in a Devolved Northern Ireland’ pp.95-109, Devolution and Identity pp95-110 (eds) J Wilson and K Stapleton, Aldershot: Ashgate.

Bryan, D and Gordon Gillespie (2006). ‘Flags and Emblems’ pp.41-66 in Sharing over Separation Belfast: Northern Ireland Community Relations Council.

Bryan, D (2006) ‘The Politics of Community’ Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. Vol.9 No.4 pp.603-617.

Michael Hamilton and Bryan, D (2006) ‘Mediation and the Law: The Parades Commission in Northern Ireland’ Ohio State University Journal of Peace Studies. Vol.22 Issue 1, pp133-187.

'Deepening Democracy? Dispute System Design and the Mediation of Contested Parades in Northern Ireland' in Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, 22 (1) (2006).

Transforming Conflict: Flags and Emblems, Institute of Irish Studies (2005).

'Symbols: Sites of creation and Contest in Northern Ireland' in The SAIS Review of International Affairs, 25 (2), (2005).

'Parading Protestants and Consenting Catholics in Northern Ireland: Communal Conflict, Contested Public Space, and Group Rights' in Chicago Journal of International Law, 5 (1), (2004).

'Rituals of Irish Protestantism and Orangeism: The Transnational Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland' in European Studies - An Interdisciplinary Series in European Culture, History and Politics, 19, (2003).

'Belfast: Urban Space, 'Policing' and Sectarian Polarization' in Jane Schneider and Ida Susser (eds), Wounded Cities: Destruction and Reconstruction in a Globalized World, (Berg, 2003)

'Drumcree: Marching Towards Peace in Northern Ireland?' in Jorg Neuheiser and Stefan Wolff (eds) Peace at Last: The Impact of the Good Friday Agreement, (Berghahn, 2002).

Orange Parades: The Politics of Ritual, Tradition and Control (London: Pluto Press, 2000).

'Drumcree and "The Right to March": Ritual and Politics in Northern Ireland.' 'We'll Follow the Drum: The Irish Parading Tradition' (ed) Tom Fraser (London: Macmillan, 2000).

Entry on QUB Research Portal


  • MA (Irish Studies)
  • Irish Studies II: the modern history, politics and social anthropology of Ireland (210IRS102)
  • International Summer School in Irish Studies



Flags Project