Curing Qualities of Culture: A Comparative Analysis of Northern Ireland and Cyprus

Research Theme: Cities, Communities and Contested Urbanism
Supervisors: Dr Phil Boland (p.boland@qub.ac.uk) and Dr. Brendan Murtagh (b.murtagh@qub.ac.uk)

The most recent and fascinating debate in cultural studies concerns the purported curing qualities of culture. This relates to the claim that cultural planning, and more specifically cultural events, are not only an ‘economic resource’ (i.e. jobs, tourism, and investment) but also a resource enabling peace and reconciliation to occur within divided societies. This was most evident in Northern Ireland when Derry-Londonderry became the UK’s first City of Culture in 2013; CoC aimed to deliver economic improvement to a depressed local economy and also bring the conflictual communities (Catholic-Nationalist and Protestant-Unionist) closer together through cultural activity, exchange and enactment. In 2017 Pafos will be European Capital of Culture, and like Derry-Londonderry Pafos is part of a territory that is divided (between Greek and Turkish Cypriots). This project seeks to analyse the curing qualities of culture – economically, socially and politically – in both cities and more specifically what this means for future cities of culture, and the role of culture in divided territories. Recent research on Derry-Londonderry (Boland, Murtagh and Shirlow, 2016) reveals positive impacts in terms of culture as a peace resource but less effectiveness on the economy. Given this, important research questions emerge for future cities of culture more generally and Pafos in particular:

  1. What are the long term legacies of Derry-Londonderry?
  2. What lessons can Pafos, and other cities of culture, learn from Derry-Londonderry?
  3. Is there too much importance attached to the curing qualities of culture?
  4. Should policy makers be more realistic about culture as an economic resource?

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