My research focuses on the semiotic potentiality of urban revitalization. I explore how public events, art and performance are used to reinvent public space and imagine possible futures.
Imagining a New Belfast
I analyze the role of civic events and celebration in the ongoing post-conflict regeneration of Belfast, Northern Ireland. In these events, issues central to Belfast’s political life—from tourism, physical redevelopment, to European integration—are addressed through carnivalesque play as the events’ producers and participants imagine and perform Belfast’s future urban identity. Through my fieldwork I reconstruct the broad networks that fund and organize these public events, reassemble the process of their production, and examine the motivations and intentions behind them. I find that parades play an integral part in the collective negotiations of place. Parades have a role in the semiotics of imagining new futures; they represent, through tropes of multiculturalism and Europeanism, aspirational ideals of a peaceful “New Belfast”.
Kenosha's languishing downtown is also a site of surprising innovation and cultural productivity. As the city fathers squabble over streetcars and sidewalk repairs, an emergent class of artists, "makers" and entrepreneurs are taking the re-development of the deindustrialized downtown into their own hands. My ongoing research in Kenosha examines the reinvention of place in a context where there is no directive policy agenda, where local government and local activists are often working at cross purposes. I ask, what emerges from the fray, and what of Kenosha's industrial past will be drawn into its future?
In all my work I examine how meaning is made through dialogical processes that include both objects and people.