Youth Spaces in Haunted Places: Placemaking for Peacebuilding in Theory and Practice

Eleni Spiliotes
Friday 8 December 2023

McEvoy-Levy, Siobhan. International Journal of Peace Studies 17, no. 2 (2012): 1–32.

Defining public space as a sociospatial construct, this journal article analyzes the relationship between placemaking and peacebuilding in the post-conflict landscape. McEvoy-Levy argues that placemaking practices are not necessarily peaceful, as public spaces are continuously redesigned by the power relations that unfold within them, and thus placemaking often takes the form of spatial control. Using Northern Ireland as a case study, this article reframes territoriality as a war placemaking practice. McEvoy-Levy investigates the link between wartime infrastructure, segregation, and destruction, and intra-group identity formation and conflict narration, which makes communities resistant to normative peacebuilding strategies once a war has ended. Furthermore, this article argues that post-conflict securitization perpetuates discourses of conflict, traumatizing younger generations who must navigate an environment of physical and social barriers, memorialized violence, and adult territoriality. Top-down placemaking interventions, which are not based on the everyday experience of navigating a specific post-conflict built environment, further alienate and radicalize younger generations who lack spatial agency and placemaking authority. This article proposes a more democratic and collaborative form of placemaking, conceptualized as an ongoing process of cross-community civic engagement and reconciliation, rather than the implementation of a standard set of peace-building typologies. By foregrounding multidirectional memory in the urban regeneration of public space, its institutions, and its visual symbolism, placemaking can break the cycle of transgenerational trauma by producing new spatial narratives.


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