Page content

The parallels and differences between Derry and the Bosnian city of Mostar will come under the microscope at a conference at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus this weekend.

These historic, iconic cities emerged as major hotbeds of the political activism in post-colonial and post-communist Europe in the latter part of the 20th century; both are now emerging from conflict.

Co-convenor of the conference, Dr Éamonn Ó Ciardha explains that it is part of an on-going, comparative project with Dr Gabriela Vojvoda-Engstler (University of the Saarland) called 'Cities Divided – Cities united: Bosnian and Northern Irish identities in the city literatures of Belfast, Derry/Londonderry, Mostar and Sarajevo'.

Dr Ó Ciardha, a senior lecturer in Irish Language and Literature at the University of Ulster continued: “Derry~Londonderry and Mostar effectively portray divided and (re)united communities, providing a microcosm of national, ethnic, political, military, religious, ideological and cultural conflicts in their respective regions.”

“Located in composite states and divided societies, the inhabitants of both cities have tried to preserve their disparate, threatened identities and have defined and re-defined them.”

He continued: “The two cities are divided by rivers and defined by iconic bridges and city walls: The River Neretva divides Mostar on an east- (Muslim ) west (Croatian, Catholic) axis, with a Serbian Orthodox minority. The River Foyle divides Derry~Londonderry into the predominantly Catholic Cityside and Protestant Waterside. Even the differences in the city’s name – Doire Calgach/Doire Colmcille, Derry and Londonderry make profound political and cultural statements.

“The Civil Rights Movement effectively emerged from Derry in 1968 and it provided the setting for some of the worst violence of ‘The Troubles’ but since the Good Friday Agreement, it has become a key focus of cross-community peace-building and reconciliation.”

Mostar’s Stari Most, which was built in 1566 during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent, was one of the glories of a golden age of Ottoman architecture and a tangible link between east and west, Islam and Christianity. The bridge was destroyed by the Croatian military in 1993 but it was rebuilt and reopened by UNESCO in 2004.

“Both the Stari Most and Derry’s Peace Bridge are powerful symbols of the reunion of cities in conflict,” said Dr Ó Ciardha.

Bridging Division, a three day international conference, will examine the historical, political and cultural contexts for the conflict/post-conflict literatures of these two diverse, culturally-rich conurbations on the extremities of Europe. Members of the pubic are welcome to attend and there is no charge although anyone interested in attending is asked to register with Ros O’Hagan telephone +44 (0)2871 375277. “Bridging Division”: Derry/Londonderry and Mostar: The literatures of partition, unification and reconciliation – Great Hall, Magee Campus, University of Ulster , 27-29 September 2013