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Music, conflict and Ulster loyalism

In 2018, Dr Stephen Millar was awarded a three-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship for a new project examining the role loyalist songs played during the Northern Ireland Troubles (1968-1998).

Building on his established work on the cultural politics of Irish republicanism (Millar, 2017, 2018, 2020) the project unravels the role songs play in inciting violence during war and legitimising structural violence during peace, examining their embeddedness in paramilitarism and inter-communal conflict.

It explores why musicians and audiences continue to consume loyalist songs, and how, in the wake of Brexit, such songs form part of a cultural nostalgia for multiple and intersecting imagined pasts, which resonate with the rise of populism in other parts of the world.

Output and works in progress

The project’s first output was published in a 2021 article in Ethnomusicology Forum, entitled From Belfast to the Somme (and Back Again): Loyalist Paramilitaries, Political Song, and Reverberations of Violence.

Stephen’s continuing research on loyalist songs forms the basis of a new book project, Performing Paramilitarism: Ulster Loyalism and the Poetics of Violence.

Associated staff