Breathing Shared Worlds
: Northern Ireland, Territory, and Peace

  • Ciara A Merrick

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis argues the question of peace in Northern Ireland, and perhaps beyond, cannot be founded on tolerance, equality, or mutual understanding among persons. Peace cannot reside within a horizon of sameness, whereby bodies are posited as either dualistic or in-common. Both these positions engulf and dissipate the potential of the in-between as they approach the self and other as known identities graspable in their entirety. As a scholar inspired by a feminist politics, I approach the question of peace as an active, transformative making. This does not mean imposing a fixed, timeless or utopian vision of peace upon empirical reality and critically deconstructing the capacity of the real world to measure up. Nor does it sacrifice the potential of peace to the non-violent or less-than-violent; peace as an impossible perfection always-already subsumed by the originary position of conflict and agonism. Rather, I call for an alternative starting point that holds the capacity to attend to the ethical encounters of peace always-already respiring throughout the city of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The starting point I opt for moves with, but also beyond, the thinking of philosopher Luce Irigaray. Irigaray conceives of the encounter as a relation of differentiation in proximity active in the sharing of breath. Epistemologically, I trace the movement and materiality of breath through a detailed ethnographic study of an Irish language centre in Protestant east Belfast. This tracing animates an understanding of peace as woven from the necessary relationality of autonomous bodies in active ‘doings’ that affirm everyday processes of socio-ecological care and reciprocity. The political emphasis of this thesis cannot be located in a critical assessment of the ‘what is’. Rather, it moves with an extant, ecological weaving of alternative worlds making peace-full, if speculative, futures from within the immanence of the present.
Date of Award23 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorMark Jackson (Supervisor) & Maria Fannin (Supervisor)


  • peace, Northern Ireland, breath, Luce Irigaray, encounter, care, difference, territory

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