Belfast studied for clues to uniting fractured cities

I read this article in the Guardian a while ago and I’m only now getting around to posting it.  I found most of what the article said and didn’t say quite irritating–perhaps because it raises more questions about the premise of the study and the political nature of the subject that they’re undertaking.  Apparently a group of researchers plans to study the regeneration of Belfast “for possible solutions to ending the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem.”  Hmm.

The project by the University of Cambridge will look at how changes to the layout of cities can help to overcome decades of political and religious unrest.

The study will focus on Belfast and Jerusalem primarily, but also will look at other historically divided cities such as Berlin, Beirut, Mostar in Bosnia, Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, and Kirkuk in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

I wonder, by “changes to the layout of cities” in regards to Belfast, do they mean building 30ft high “peace lines” to separate the working-class Catholic and Protestant communities?  How successful has the Israeli apartheid wall been in overcoming political and religious unrest?

I suppose it’s what the article doesn’t say that says it all, so to speak.  Or maybe it’s this part:

“The nature of the city is helping people to overcome the old divisions, and by looking at how that is taking place it may be possible to find solutions that can be applied to Jerusalem.”

She added: “If we do not understand how people can manage to live side by side – in effect what makes such a city work at everyday level – it may never recover from years of division and conflict.”

Previous research by Cambridge concluded that the built environment plays a key role in determining whether inherent [emphasis mine] conflict in cities results in violence or lively social interaction.

inherent: adj. existing in someone or something as a permanent or inseprable element, quality or attribute
Perhaps the money spent on this 5 year study would be better spent on gaining even an elementary understanding of the roots of these conflicts? I don’t know about you, but I’d say this study is inherently flawed…

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Filed under belfast, ireland, Irish peace process, middle east, palestine

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