For her book Talking Stones: The Politics of Memorialization in Post-Conflict Northern Ireland, Elisabetta Viggiani mapped 157 publicly visible sites of Troubles commemoration in Belfast.
Broken down, the city’s memorials alone offer a ratio of one wall plaque, garden, public tableau or statue for every 25 of the 4,000 or so people killed by the civil violence that wracked Northern Ireland’s six counties from 1969 to 1998.
The numbers are a stark data point in Viggiani’s conclusion: the social imaginary in which we live our individual lives is a peaceful kingdom, but our collective selves have a vital need to mark the history of our side.
Even as Canadians with our cherished myth of enduring peaceability, the dynamic deserves attention.
For Canadians, the Troubles in Ireland might seem geographically distant and wrapped in historic fog. Yet in the fresh past, we’ve found ourselves in an escalating action-reaction pattern with regard to the histories we entrust to commemorative sites.