Peace in Northern Ireland today remains fragile despite the exhaustive peacebuilding efforts that have taken place since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Many aspects of the sectarian conflict have been embedded in cultural substrata of the respective communities, and cultural transformation is necessary to achieve comprehensive and sustained peace. The basic assumptions about the Other in this sectarian conflict have their origin in traumatic events that occurred more than three hundred years ago and have been reinforced by the more recent three decades of conflict known as the Troubles. These traumatic individual and collective experiences across the generations have had a profound effect on the culture and peace processes within Northern Ireland. Two articles, Parts 1 and 2, on cultural work in peacebuilding among traumatized communities of Northern Ireland describe a psychodynamically informed understanding of the sectarian conflict and an approach to cultural transformation called “cultural work.” This first article discusses general contextual issues and includes a history of Northern Ireland from a psychodynamic perspective and presents a framework for considering culture and a process of transformation.



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