Social-Housing-Policy as Military-Security-Strategy

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


At the height of ‘the Troubles’ in 1977 social-housing in Belfast was in a crisis situation. As inner-city communities became ‘battlespaces’ of a wider and violent political conflict, social-housing settlements consolidated along ethnic boundaries. These processes revised the urban form of the inner-city resulting in divisive material forms which continue to segregate large sections of Belfast’s population. Current post-conflict policy frameworks identify the consequent ‘Interfaces’ and ‘Peace-walls’ as primary physical barriers to conflict transformation processes. This paper presents findings from an UK Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project that challenges this current critique. Through qualitative analysis of previously classified government documents, alongside practice-led architectural fieldwork investigations within Belfast’s inner-city communities, this paper presents new evidence of a much wider and undisclosed government programme of urban segregation. The examination reveals the operation of confidential government processes that assessed social-housing provision not in terms of the ‘social-need’ it addressed but in terms of the ‘security-threat’ it presented. The analysis explains how such security-focused practices were carried out without disclosure to social-housing authorities and illustrates how the impact of these decisions contravened the humanitarian need that socially focused policy was attempting to address. It argues that such processes brought into being the idea of the ‘security-threat-community’; a theoretical construct where every person is a potential insurgent and every dwelling a potential security-threat. These findings are used to provide a critical problematizing of contemporary post-conflict policy that illustrates how the security-threat-community provides a contemporary barrier to transformative policy progress. As a complement to post-911 discourses concerning ‘globalised conflicts’ and an increasing dialecticism between civil-liberty and security resilience, the findings reinforce both the primacy and the complexity of local discurvities and argue for a ‘revaluing of the value’ of architecture and urban design as a political instrument in conflict and post-conflict conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2016
EventUrban Affairs Association International Conference - Hilton Bayfront San Diego, USA
Duration: 18 Mar 2016 → …


ConferenceUrban Affairs Association International Conference
Period18/03/16 → …

Bibliographical note

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  • Architecture
  • Conflict
  • Society
  • Military
  • Urban
  • Northern Ireland
  • Planning


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