Article – Partition Walls in the 21st Century

One of the interesting comments made by the students on the Berlin field course regarded the celebratory tone of the commemoration of the 1989 fall of the Berlin wall. “You could think that this was the end of wall building altogether,” the student remarked while walking around Bernauer Strasse Wall Memorial. The tension between such a celebratory account and the present-day erection of security fences along numerous European borders to halt flows of migrants wasn’t lost on the students.

But such securitisation is neither new nor restricted to the edges of states: an article in today’s Guardian illustrates the enduring urban walls separating Protestant and Catholic communities in Belfast. There are a number of interesting points about the ‘peace walls’, not least their existence in legal limbo (created under anti-terror laws it is not clear how a mandate could be passed to take them down) or the micro-geographies of resistance to the walls segregation: the construction of a community garden by representatives from either sides of the wall. This latter attempt seems a direct challenge to the role of such barriers in consolidating antagonistic ideas of community founded on fear for the unknown beyond the wall. These are devices that freeze conflict, pacification rather peace.

Alex Jeffrey, September 2015

Photo: Israeli security wall in Jerusalem (photo: Alex Jeffrey)

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