As tension mounts
during the build up to the Orange Marching season in the summer
each year in Northern Ireland the streets of many of its cities
and towns are festooned with flags. The proliferation of Union Jacks,
Irish Tricolours, Ulster flags, and paramilitary flags that adorn
the streets symbolise loyalty and are sectarian markers of territory.
In July 2002, however, something unusual happened. As if from nowhere,
Republicans started hoisting the Palestinian flag alongside their
Irish Tricolours, and in neighbouring Loyalist areas the Israeli
flag fluttered happily alongside the Union Jack and paramilitaries
flags. It is difficult to analyse the reasons for this. The essay
posits some reasons for this by mainly focusing on the concept of
essay outlines some unfolding ideas about fear, risk and social
change, and their application to the process of political transition.
It is about diverse forms of symbolism, as well as the confluence
and divergence of micro (individual) and macro (political) ways
of dealing with and thinking about the legacy of political violence.
The essay analyses the role of fear in the political transition
process, a subject seldom dealt with in the academic literature.
The frame of analysis I use is a new lens of examination and application
for my unfolding work on political transitions, particularly from
a psychosocial perspective. To this end, the essay presents a range
of ideas and theoretical contemplations, which will hopefully open
further academic space within political transition processes and
debates in the transitional justice literature for exploring the
concept of fear.
The essay draws on my experience of the peace processes in Northern
Ireland and South Africa. It begins by positing some thoughts on
the strange phenomenon of the flying of Israeli flags in Belfast
as highlighted by the quoted at the beginning of the essay. It outlines
briefly how the concept of fear (and risk) is generally dealt with
in the psychological and sociological literature. Thereafter, it
argues that fear and its use is an unrecognised variable operating
within the popular discourses surrounding political negotiations
and processes such as truth commissions. The way the concept of
fear-like the suffering of victims of political violence-is politicised
and depoliticised is tackled. The essay then concludes by trying
to apply some of the ideas presented to the South Africa and Northern
Ireland contexts, and particularly to approaches to political risk-taking.