This event brought us together with scholars working on similar issues in Northern Ireland. Our project (2014-17) is examining how Kenyans are engaging with ‘culture’ and cultural rights since the promulgation of a new constitution in 2010 that enshrined such rights for the first time. It has involved, among other things, interrogating cultural heritage practices and discourses, as well as notions of community, identity, ethnicity, belonging and nationhood in the post-colony. Kenya is also, most importantly, a post-conflict society scarred not only by British colonial-era violence, but also by bouts of largely state-orchestrated violence since independence in 1963, notably the post-election violence of 2007-8.
In Northern Ireland disputes over cultural practices and perceived restrictions on traditional rights have also become prominent over recent years. Protests and tensions over parades, visual displays and bonfires have led to accusations of a ‘culture war’ being voiced in some quarters. In June 2016 the Northern Ireland Executive established a Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition to look at this broad area as part of a wider process of addressing a range of issues associated with the legacy of the conflict and inter-communal tensions.
While drawing on the experience of very different contexts, the research from Kenya and Northern Ireland highlights the role that cultural practices and notions of tradition can play in societies moving out of conflict.
As well as papers from the team the session also featured a response from Prof. Colin Harvey entitled ‘Human Rights, Culture and Contestation in Northern Ireland.’ The paper explored the human rights debate in Northern Ireland, particularly as it has developed since the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 1998.
You can listen to the whole debate by following the link below: