[Links to full reviews are included, when available.]
Lee Smithey's account offers valuable insight into the previously underexposed Protestant, Unionist and Loyalist communities, supplying a fresh perspective on an otherwise saturated field of literature. From the outset, Smithey provides an excellent background to the nature of the conflict and subsequent segregation, polarisation, division and isolation that surrounds the two dominant communities in Northern Ireland ... an extrememly interesting read [this book] manages to move between theory and practice, while providing readers with the knowledge and understanding of the complex phenomena that constitute conflict transformation in a divided society.
-- Jonny Byrne, Lecturer, School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy, University of Ulster, in the Times Higher Education
"This is a work of impressive scholarship from a young researcher who has already made an international reputation as an analyst of the vicissitudes of Northern Ireland's peace process. It takes a refreshingly novel approach to political and cultural change within Unionism and provides a rich blend of visual data, qualitative interviews, and analysis. The book avoids the temptation to romanticize the peace process and is hard-hitting and realistic about the prospects of conflict transformation amongst Unionists. The book makes a significant contribution to the new field of the sociology of peace processes."
---John D. Brewer, Professor of Sociology, School of Social Sciences, University of Aberdeen
"In this book Lee Smithey does a terrific job analyzing how grassroots activists and social movements in Northern Ireland's Protestant community are transforming their relationship with Catholics in ways that reflect and promote a more or less peaceful coexistence in this once strife-ton region. To do this he offers fine-grained evidence resulting from his many years of intensive fieldwork to argue that modifications in cultural expressions such as murals, commemorative rituals, parades and flag displays are central to the creation of new understandings and behaviors in the post-1998 period as both communities slowly begin to recognize their shared past and joint future."
---Marc Howard Ross, William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science, Bryn Mawr College
"Lee Smithey's patient research and sophisticated analysis reveal innovative, if frequently incremental, moves toward less defensive identities and more constructive politics from a quarter often dismissed as relentlessly reactionary: the grassroots institutions and practices of Northern Ireland's Protestant unionist and loyalist communities. His findings are most heartening for Northern Ireland. They are also suggestive of what might be required for movement toward peace in ethnic, national, and religious conflicts everywhere."
---Joe Liechty, Professor and Director of Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies, and co-author of Moving Beyond Sectarianism: Religion, Conflict, and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland
A compelling and complex narrative of cultural and social change, Lee Smithey's Unionists, Loyalists, and Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland innovative analyses of symbolic capital, including murals, monuments, and parades, identifying them as integral to developments in ethno-political processes of conflict and peace. The perspective offered here on conflict, memory, and identity in the midst of change, grappled with at the grassroots level, is absolutely essential and made possible only through the sort of careful, intensive, long-term ethnographic research Smithey undertakes. His detailed study of shifting collective identities in unionist and loyalist community groups and grassroots activism is a fascinating and indispensable study of contemporary Northern Irish history and society.
-- Selection Committee for the Donald Murphy Book Prize for Distinguished First Book from the American Conference for Irish Studies
Some might argue that there is no discernible change of approach or attitude on the ground. Others may point to momentous steps being taken by individuals and groups. The reality is somewhere in-between. Lee’s research points to changes of strategy – sometimes small – that are allowing “more constructive means of pursuing political agendas and expressing collective identity” to emerge.
This is an interesting and extremely detailed book which is well written and researched. The author provides an academic study which is thought provoking, incisive and fair and his book deserves study and consideration.
-- The Orange Standard (March 2012, p. 17)