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More Violence for Northern Ireland?


Doug Caulkins, emeritus professor of anthropology, is leading a multiyear study of regeneration of Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Anya Vanecek ’15 and Mackenzie Shanahan ’14 are anthropology majors supported with summer funding from Grinnell’s Mentored Advance Project research funds.

Several nights of conflict between the police and Protestant loyalist demonstrators erupted in North Belfast when Protestant Orange Order marchers were prevented from entering a Catholic area. Four hundred police from other parts of the United Kingdom were drafted in to help Belfast police contain the violence in which more than 30 police and an unknown number of demonstrators were injured.

President Obama visited Belfast, Northern Ireland, on his way to the G8 summit and congratulated residents on the success of the peace process that has created relative calm between the Catholic and the Protestant communities who battled each other during “The Troubles” in the last part of the 20th century. With the reemergence of tensions between communities, a violent demonstration erupted in Belfast on the evening of July 12, during the annual Protestant marches of the Orange Order, celebrating the triumph of William of Orange in 1690 over the deposed Catholic King James in the Battle of the Boyne. Conflict broke out Friday between the police and loyalist Protestant demonstrators when the police prevented the marchers from entering the Catholic area of Ardoyne in Belfast, a traditional route that was put off-limits by officials this year. Demonstrators, mainly teenage boys, hurled fire bombs, bricks, stones, bottles, and flashed laser pens while police replied with plastic bullets and water cannons. People on both sides were injured, including a Protestant Minister of Parliament who was attempting to calm the protestors.

In contrast to Belfast’s violence, the Orange Order marches of the 12th in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s second largest city, were peaceful. The Catholic residents prefer the name “Derry” which resonates with the old Irish name of the settlement on the site. Protestants prefer “Londonderry” which draws attention to the founding of the 17th century walled city by the merchant guilds of London upon the urging of the King of England. The official name of the town combines the two names to show that the best peace-ful compromise is to have it both ways. Derry-Londonderry is celebrating its selection as the UK City of Culture 2013 and the Orange parades were particularly impressive, with 5,000 marchers in over 60 Orange Order lodges and 40 bands parading from the Protestant neighborhoods across the bridge over the river Foyle into the walled city, which is predominantly Catholic. It took over two hours for the marchers to pass the war memorial in the center of town.

At midnight of the previous day, huge bonfires of tires and wooden pallets were lit to begin the celebration of the Orange Order marching season. This year, as usual, a tricolor flag of Ireland was flown from the top of the 35 foot high pyre. Some Protestants annually incinerate the Irish tricolor to emphasize their loyalty to British rule and their rejection of the possibility that the six counties of Northern Ireland will ever become part of the Irish Republic.

The Londonderry police were out in force, with armored Land Rovers parked strategically in the streets, while a police helicopter flew overhead, keeping a lookout for gatherings of potential troublemakers. The senior police officers constantly circled through the city in unmarked cars to make sure that all remained peaceful. Those of us who were lining the streets to watch the parade were cautioned sternly by the police not to say or do anything provocative. Police were careful to disperse any groups of teenagers that might have created a problem. Dozens of police stood watching the onlookers as the parade started, with a horse-drawn carriage with a costumed “King Billy” (William of Orange) and his wife waving to the audience. Then came thousands of marchers and the bands, which come in three varieties: bagpipe, accordion, and flute. All bands have massed drums that stir the appreciative crowds and sometime intimidate the people of the Catholic neighbor-hoods, according to their critics.

This year the two communities in Derry-Londonderry were peaceful for the beginning of the summer parades. Police were overheard talking to tourists about the importance of the UK City of Culture award that brought many events and visitors to the city. Along with a series of infrastructure and entrepreneurial developments funded by the government, the year-long City of Culture event is intended to bring regeneration to the city’s economy. Both the Police Chief and the Mayor remarked that the City of Culture is setting a good example for Northern Ireland as a peaceful host for the Orange Order marches. Significantly, the new Orange Order banner leading the parade into the city features the city’s new Peace Bridge, which connects the two communities which live on opposite sides of the river Foyle.

While most of the residents seem enthusiastic about Derry-Londonderry’s selection as UK City of Culture for this year, with the attendant funding by the UK central government, a clandestine paramilitary group, RAAD, or Republican Action Against Drugs, pledged to resist the program. RAAD had gained notoriety by first threatening drug dealers and then kneecapping or killing them if they persisted in dealing drugs. Thus far RAAD has done little to disrupt the City of Culture Celebrations, apart from some small bombs set off near City of Culture offices.

During the five weeks of our field study of the impact of the City of Culture regeneration of Derry-Londonderry we encountered a great deal of positive energy in the dozens of events and programs in which we participated. Caulkins will return again next year to assess the long-term legacy of the program, along with another team of students.

By Doug Caulkins, Anya Vanecek ’15 and Mackenzie Shanahan ’14

Fire and Ice

Two courses of students and faculty participated in international field trips during winter break 2013. 

Kathy Jacobson and Peter Jacobson, associate professors of biology, traveled with students from their Namib Desert Ecology course. 

Students in Korea's Economic Development course traveled with Jack Mutti, Sidney Meyer Professor in International EconomicsKeith Brouhle ’96, associate professor of economics; and Man-Ching Chan, assistant professor of economics. 

For more about the courses, see "Fire & Ice" from The Grinnell Magazine Spring 2013.

Old World Prehistory

Sun, 2013-03-03 22:29 | By Anonymous (not verified)

In my Old World Prehistory class I use bronze axes to teach about the impact of early technologies. Even prehistoric tools come from complex systems. Before you have a bronze axe, you have mines and all the tools to work them, the high temperature fire technology of smelting and casting, ceramics and stone carving for moulds, and so on.

For the class project, we start with the cast axe blade. I carved a wooden form copying axes from the early Bronze Age in Britain (ca 1800 BC), which was reproduced in modern bronze by MaxCast Foundry in Kalona. Each student received a bronze axe head and had a couple of days of after class work to make hafts for them. Modern tools were used, but everyone cames to see that many tools are needed to make the axe, and those tools also have a background of previous tools and technologies, ad infinitum. The complex technologies of making bronze imply the involvement of skilled specialists, and the possibility of control and exploitation by the elite of the time. Armed with axes, the class looked for something to cut. John McIntyre kindly allowed the class to fell a few trees on his property. At this point we quickly learned that a technology is not just material, but also involves learned skills - few of the class had ever used an axe before. For class purposes, the point was to use the axes enough to have a subjective feel for them, compare and think about the different hafts, and compare the bronze tools to modern hatchets, and to a couple of stone axes. To produce a bit of quantified data to analyze, each student chopped through a measured section of log with both their bronze axe and a modern hatchet, recording time spent, number of strokes, and amount of wood removed. For further experience, the class constructed something appropriate to the Bronze Age, but reasonably simple. This year the class built a “monument,” an arch constructed with mortise and tenon, and several posts with axe-carved decoration. If you look closely at the monument, you can see some symbolic oppositions that were probably also in the minds of Bronze Age monument builders: Earth/Sky, Male/Female, Nature/Culture. Monument building is a social event. In the Bronze Age, there was presumably religious ritual involved; they reflected on this by burying “valuables” (pennies) under the posts. A monument reflects the power and responsibilities of leadership. I provided stew for a “feast” as we sat on the lawn for the academic discussion of their project. The monument stood for a few weeks as a display; the students could “enhance their status” by pointing to a monument they helped build. The class also commemorated the event with a group photo, and the class somewhat satirically insisted on reflecting in a second photo on my powerful position as professor and Bronze Age chieftain.