Troubling Masculinities: Changing Patterns of Violent Masculinities in a Society Emerging from Political Conflict

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Men’s dominance of the political and military dimensions of theNorthern Ireland conflict has meant that the story of the conflict has generally been a story about men. Ethnonationalist antagonism reinforced men’s roles as protectors and defenders of ethnonational groups and shaped violent expressions of masculinities. Due to the primacy of ethno-nationalist frameworks of analysis in research on the conflict, the relationships between gender and men’s violence have been under-theorized. This article employs the framework of Critical Studies of Men and Masculinities to examine these relationships and also explores the changing patterns of men’s violence in Northern Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-762
JournalStudies in Conflict and Terrorism
Issue number9
Early online date12 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Reference text: 1Judith Newton, “White Guys,” Feminist Studies 24(3) (1998), p. 576.

2John Innes, The End of Masculinity (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1998), p. 2.

3See Fidelma Ashe, The New Politics of Masculinities (London and New York: Routledge, 2007).

4See Michael Flood, “The Men's Bibliography.” Available at (accessed 24 September 2013).

5Ashe, Politics of Masculinities, pp. 96–156.

6Fidelma Ashe, “Gender and Ethno-nationalist Politics in Northern Ireland,” in Colin Coulter and Michael Murray, eds., Northern Ireland after the Troubles (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), pp. 45–60.

7See Marysia Zalewski, “Gender Ghosts in McGarry and O’Leary and Representations of the Conflict in Northern Ireland,” Political Studies 53(1) (2005), pp. 201–221.

8Newton, “White Guys,” p. 572.

9For example, Iris Marion Young, Justice and the Politics of Difference (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990).

10Newton, “White Guys,” p. 572.

11Rodgers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper, “Beyond Identity,” Theory and Society 29(1) (2000), pp. 1–47.

12See Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality Vol. 1: The Will to Knowledge (London: Penguin, 1990).

13See Adrian Little, “Feminism and the Politics of Difference in Northern Ireland,” Journal of Political Ideologies 7(2) (2002), pp. 163–177 as an example.

14The 1998 Northern Ireland peace agreement is often referred to simply as the Agreement.

15See Jonathan Tonge, The New Northern Irish Politics? (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004).

16See for an overview, Susan Faludi, Stiffed, The Betrayal of the American Man (Hammersmith: HarperCollins, 1990).

17See Ashe, “Gender and Ethno-Nationalism.”

18For critical readings see Debbie Ging, Men and Masculinities in Irish Cinema (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013), p. 100; Caroline Magennis, Sons of Ulster: Masculinities in the Contemporary Northern Irish Novel (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010). For analyses see Fidelma Ashe, “From Paramilitaries to Peacemakers: The Gender Dynamics of Community-Based Restorative Justice in Northern Ireland,” British Journal of Politics and International Relations 11(2) (2009), pp. 298–314; Lorraine Dowler, “Till Death Do Us Part: Masculinity, Friendship and Nationalism in Belfast, Northern Ireland,” Environment and Planning D, Society and Space 19 (2001), pp. 53–71; Karen Lysaght, “Dangerous Friends and Deadly Foes—Performances of Masculinity in a Divided Society,” Irish Geography 35(1) (2002), pp. 51–62; Sara McDowell, “Commemorating Dead ‘Men’: Gendering the Past and Present in Post-conflict Northern Ireland,” Gender, Place and Culture 15(4) (2008), pp. 335–354; Linda Racioppi and Katherine O’Sullivan See, “‘This We Will Maintain’: Gender, Ethno-Nationalism and the Politics of Unionism in Northern Ireland,” Nations and Nationalism 7(1) (2001), pp. 93–112; Simona Sharoni, “Gendering Resistance within an Irish Republican Prisoner Community: A Conversation with Laurence McKeown,” International Feminist Journal of Politics 2(1) (2000), pp. 104–123.

19Alan Feldman, Formations of Violence: The Narrative of the Body and Political Terrorism in Northern Ireland (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

20Jeff Hearn and David Morgan, ‘‘The Critique of Men,’’ in Hearn and Morgan, eds., Men, Masculinity and Social Theory (London: Hyman Unwin, 1990), pp. 206–214. See also Jeff Hearn, ‘‘The Implications of Critical Studies on Men,’’ Nora 3 (1997), pp. 48–60; Jeff Hearn, ‘‘Theorizing Men and Men's Theorizing: Varieties of Discursive Practices in Men Theorizing of Men,’’ Theory and Society 27 (1998), pp. 781–816.

21See Hearn, ‘‘Critical Studies on Men”; Hearn, ‘‘Theorizing Men.”

22See Ashe, Politics of Masculinities; R. W. Connell, Masculinities (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995); Connell and James W. Messerschmidt, “Hegemonic Masculinities: Rethinking the Concept,” Gender and Society 19(6) (2005), pp. 829–859; Michael Kimmel, Manhood in American: A Cultural History (New York: Free Press, 1996).

23See for example Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, (London: Routledge, 1990); Lynne Segal, Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing Men (London: Virago Press, 1997).

24Connell, Masculinities, chapter 1.


26See, for example, Gary T. Barker, Dying to be Men: Youth, Masculinity and Social Exclusion (London and New York: Routledge, 2005); Connell, Masculinities; Steve Hall, “Daubing the Drudges of Fury: Men, Violence and the Piety of the ‘Hegemonic Masculinity’ Thesis,” Theoretical Criminology 6(1) (2002), pp. 35–61.

27Alan Petterson, “Research on Men and Masculinities: Some Implications of Recent Theory for Future Work,” Men and Masculinities 6(1) (2003), pp. 54–69.

28For example, Jeff Hearn, The Violences of Men: How Men Talk About and How Agencies Respond to Men's Violence to Women (London: Sage Publications, 1998).

29Joanne Nagel, “Masculinity and Nationalism: Gender, Sexuality and the Making of Nations” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 21 (2) (1998), pp. 242–269.

30See also George L. Mosse, The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).

31Nagel, “Masculinity and Nationalism,” p. 252.

32See Hearn and Morgan, “The Critique of Men,” pp. 206–208.

33Ibid., pp. 7–8.

34Mosse, The Image of Man.

35See Martin Mac An Ghaill, ed., Understanding Masculinities: Social Relations and Cultural Arenas (Birmingham: Open University Press, 1996).

36Bew, Gibbon, and Patterson, Social Classes (London: Serif, 2002).

37Landon Hancock, “Northern Ireland: Troubles Brewing.” Available at (accessed 28 May 2013).

38Sabine Wichert, Northern Ireland since 1945 (Essex: Longman, 1991), p. 89.

39The European Commission Office in Northern Ireland, “EU Structural Funds in Northern Ireland” (Belfast: European Commission Office in Northern Ireland, 2004), p. 1.

40Michael Smyth, “The Northern Ireland Labour Market 1977-2007: Then, Today and Tomorrow” (Newtownabbey, University of Ulster). Available at (accessed 23 August 2013).

41Socialist Party, “Good Friday Agreement.” Available at (accessed 28 May 2013), p. 5.

42See Michael Messner, The Politics of Masculinities: Men in Movements (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997).

43Neil Lyndon, No More Sex Wars (London: Sinclair Stevenson, 1992).

44Warren Farrell, The Myth of Male Power (New York: Random House, 1993).

45McDowell, “Dead Men.”

46See Dermot Feenan, “Women Judges: Gendering Judging, Justifying Diversity,” Journal of Law and Society 35(4) (2008), pp. 490–519.

47Stephen M. Whitehead, Men and Masculinities (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2002), p. 55.

48Ashe, “Gendering Ethno-Nationalism.”

49Centre for the Advancement of Women into Politics, “NI Assembly Election 2011.” Available at (accessed 10 July 2013).

50Karen Lysaght, “Mobilising the Rhetoric of Defence: Exploring Working-Class Masculinities in a Divided City,” in Betitina Van Hoven and Kathrin Horschelmann, eds., Spaces of Masculinities (London: Routledge, 2005), pp. 115–127, at p. 119.

51Spike V. Peterson, “Political Identities: Nationalism as Heterosexism,” International Feminist Journal of Politics 1(1) (1999), pp. 34–65.

52Lorraine Dowler, “‘And They Think I’m a Nice Old Lady’: Women and War in Belfast, Northern Ireland,” Gender, Place and Culture 5(2) (1998), pp. 159–176.



55Feldman, Formations of Violence, pp. 176–185; see also Padraig O’Malley, Biting at the Grave, The Irish Hunger Strikes and the Politics of Despair (Boston: Beacon Press, 1990).

56Begona Aretxaga, “Dirty Protest,” Ethos 23(2) (1995), pp. 123–148.

57Kieran McEvoy and Harry Mika, “Punishment, Policing and Praxis: Restorative Justice and Non-Violent Alternatives to Paramilitary Punishments in Northern Ireland,” Policing and Society 11(3–4) (2001), pp. 359–382.


59Ken Harland, “Violent Youth Culture in Northern Ireland: Young Men, Violence and the Challenges of Peacebuilding,” Youth & Society 43 (June) (2011), pp. 422–430.

60Kate Fearon and Monica McWilliams, eds., The Story of the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition (Belfast: Blackstaff, 1999).


62Lyndsey Harris, A Strategic Analysis of Loyalist Paramilitaries in Northern Ireland (Ph.D. Diss.: University of Ulster, 2008).

63Ashe, “From Paramilitaries to Peacemakers.”

64For example, Adrian Grounds and Ruth Jamieson, “No Sense of an Ending: Researching the Experience of Imprisonment and Release Amongst Republican Ex-Prisoners,” Theoretical Criminology 7 (2003), pp. 347–362.

65Lorraine Dowler and Peter Shirlow, “‘Wee Women No More’: Female Partners of Republican Political Prisoners in Belfast,” Environment and Planning A, 42(2) (2010), pp. 384–399.

66Anne Lazenbatt, Una Lynch, and Eileen O’Neill, “Revealing the Hidden ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland: The Role of Participatory Rapid Appraisal,” Health Education Research 16(5) (2001), pp. 567–578.


68Jonathan Tonge, “No-One Likes Us: We Don't Care,” Political Quarterly 83(2) (2012), pp. 219–226.

69Derry Journal Online, “I Hope He Listens Now: Mum Ordered to Bring Son to be Shot.” Available at (accessed 10 July 2013).

70On sexuality see Marian Duggan, “Theorising Homophobic Hate Crime in Northern Ireland,” papers from the British Criminology Conference, 8 (2008), pp. 33–49. Available at theorising_homophobic.pdf theorising_homophobic.pdf (accessed 27 August 2013). Duggan also discusses evidence of more liberal attitudes to sexuality by young people in Northern Ireland.

71Goretti Horgan, “The Making of an Outsider: Growing Up in Poverty in Northern Ireland,” Youth & Society 43(2) (2011), pp.453– 467.

72Ken Harland and Sam McCready, “Taking Boys Seriously: A Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Male School-Life Experiences” (2012). Available at (accessed 22 July 2013).

73Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, “Gender Equality Statistics 2011 Update.” Available at (accessed 10 July 2013).

74Ken Harland and Susan Morgan “Work with Young Men in Northern Ireland—An Advocacy Approach,” Youth and Policy: Journal of Critical Analysis 81(2003).

75Ken Harland, Karen Beattie, and Sam McCready, Young Men and the Squeeze of Masculinity (Ulster: University of Ulster Centre for Young Men's Studies, 2005).

76Connell, Masculinities.

77McDowell, “Dead Men.”

78Harland, “Violent Youth Culture.”

79Stephen Howe, “Mad Dogs and Ulstermen: the Crisis of Loyalism: Part One.” Available at (accessed 10 July 2013).

80Ken Harland, Young Men Talking: Voices from Belfast (Ulster: University of Ulster Centre for Young Men's Studies, 1997).

81See Peter Shirlow, “Belfast: The ‘Post-Conflict City,’” Space and Polity 10(2) (2006), pp. 99–107.

82Ken Harland, Men and Masculinity: An Ethnographic Study into the Construction of Masculine Identities in Inner City Belfast (Ph.D. Diss.: University of Ulster, 2000).

83Harland and McCready “Taking Boys Seriously,” p. 65.

84Ibid., p. 66.

85James Treadwell, Daniel Briggs, Simon Winlow, and Steve Hall, “Shopocalyse Now: Consumer Culture and the English riots of 2011,” British Journal of Criminology 53 (2013), pp. 1–17, at p. 3. See also Fidelma Ashe, “‘All about Eve’: Mothers, Masculinities and the 2011 UK Riots,” Political Studies EarlyView. Available at (accessed 27 August 2013)

86Ibid., p. 3.


88Northern Ireland Young People's Life and Times Survey, 2012. Available at (accessed 22 July 2013).


90For further explorations of class and economic regeneration in the city see Peter Shirlow and Brendan Murtagh, Belfast: Segregation Violence and the City (London: Pluto Press, 2006).

91Steve Hall, “Daubing the Drudges.”



94Carolyn Jackson, Lads and Ladettes in School (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2006); Martin Mac An Ghaill, The Making of Men: Masculinities, Sexualities and Schooling (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1994); Carrie Paechter, Being Boys, Being Girls: Learning Masculinities and Femininities (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2007).

95Harland and McCready “Taking Boys Seriously,” pp. 51–53.

96Ibid., p. 52.


  • Masculinities
  • Political Conflict
  • Violence
  • Northern Ireland


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