I want to...

Seminar: Is rioting ever ‘recreational’? – Teenagers’ attitudes and experiences of ‘Recreational rioting’ in ‘Post-conflict’ belfast

By Professor Madeleine Leonard, Queen’s University

Wed 28 Mar 2018
4:30 - 6:00 pm


Rm813 Jockey Club Tower, The Centennial Campus, HKU

Despite Northern Ireland’s new status as one of the most successful examples of what was once seen as an intractable conflict, sporadic rioting continues to flare up, particularly around parades, demonstrating the fragility rather than the durability of the peace process. The involvement of young people in these riots is particularly perplexing given that this group have grown up against a backdrop of paramilitary ceasefires and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

This paper focuses on teenagers (15-16 years of age) who live in segregated Catholic and Protestant communities in Belfast and draws on their views and experiences of rioting. These practices are often dismissed as ‘recreational’, as little more than a release from boredom for some teenagers who have nothing else to do. However, scratching beneath the surface reflects messier and more complex processes at work.

While participation in ‘recreational’ rioting in highly localised, it is deeply connected to broader political processes and has its roots in the wider historical basis of Northern Ireland. The paper will illustrate how the practice reproduces and reinforces traditional patterns of sectarianism.

Madeleine Leonard is a Professor of Sociology at Queen’s University, Belfast, where she teaches a course on Sociological Approaches to Understanding Children and Childhood for the Doctorate in Childhood Studies and a special undergraduate option on the Sociology of Childhood. She is particularly interested in creative and participatory approaches to including children in the research process. She employs a range of mainly qualitative methods in her research with children and their childhoods.

Her main research interest is in teenagers’ everyday experiences of growing up in politically sensitive societies, and she has carried out research into the experiences and perceptions of Catholic and Protestant teenagers growing up in Belfast as part of an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) project ‘Conflict in Cities and the Contested State’. She has also carried out research with Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot teenagers growing up in Nicosia, funded by the British Council. She has a number of publications on children’s experiences of and attitudes to protracted political conflict.

She is a founder member of the European Sociological Association’s Research Network for the Sociology of Children and Childhood and she is involved in planning and organising the childhood sessions of the Association’s bi-annual conferences. Her recent publications include two books: The Sociology of Children, Childhood and Generation, Sage, 2017 and Teens and Territory in Post-Conflict Belfast: If Walls Could Talk, Manchester University Press, 2017.

HKU Sociology

Main Language