Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Research Student: Katie Markham

Memory and Empathy in Northern Ireland’s Post-Conflict Museums and Memorial Sites

Photo of Katie Markham

My research examines the role of museums and memorial spaces in Northern Ireland as sites of meaningful transcultural exchange. I am particularly interested in the recent shift within heritage studies towards a valorization of empathy in the museum experience (particularly in relation to post-conflict heritage), and seek to question the applicability and appropriateness of this concept in relation to conflict heritage in Northern Ireland. In order to do this, I engage with a number of community museums across Belfast, as well as providers of Black Cab Mural Tours. Given my interdisciplinary background, I tend to ground a cultural studies approach to questions of affect, emotion and empathy with diverse qualitative research methods.

My research is funded by the ESRC as part of the White Rose Network “Re-Shaping Multiculturalism through Cultural Practices”

Main research interests:

  • Empathy
  • Affect, Embodiment & Phenomenology
  • Post-Conflict Heritage
  • Queer, Post-Colonial  & Critical Race Theories

Memberships & Affiliations:

 I am a committee member of the Critical Race & Ethnicities Network (CREN), and am also a member of the following networks:

  • British Association for Irish Studies
  • International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures
  • European Federation of Associations and Centres of Irish Studies
  • Association of Critical Heritage Studies
  • Healing through Remembering


I came to the Sociology department after completing an MA in Modern and Contemporary Literature & Culture at the University of York, where I undertook qualitative research for my dissertation on the photographic archives of District Six Museum, Cape Town. Prior to that, I studied for a degree in English Literature.


MA Modern and Contemporary Literature & Culture, University of York (2013).

Dissertation: Strange Skins: Visualising the ‘Home’ at District Six Museum”

BA English and Related Literatures, University of York (2011)

Teaching Experience

I have been a Teaching Assistant on the following Undergraduate modules:

  • Current Issues in Society (Level One)
  • Race and Hollywood Cinema (Level Two)

I have also worked as an Academic Writing Support Tutor for postgraduate students.

Select Conference Participation:

ACHS Conference, June 2016: Presenter (‘Humorous becomings: exploring empathy through the use of the “craic” in Belfast’s black cab tours’)

IES Seminar Series, November 2015: Invited Speaker (‘”The person inside of it has to be part of it”: Negotiating affects during Belfast’s Black Cab Mural Tours’)

RITA Symposium – Skin Tone, ‘Colourism’ and ‘Passing’, March 2014: Presenter (‘Cape Town’s Race for Space: Visual Narratives of Belonging at District Six Museum’)

Silence, Memory & Empathy International Conference, July  2013: Presenter (‘The inter-generational museum: photographic empathy at District Six Museum’)

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

My interests in museum and heritage studies were sparked during the dissertation phase of my MA at the University of York. After receiving a grant from the FR Leavis fund to go overseas and undertake primary research at District Six Museum for my dissertation, I realized that the field of post-conflict heritage was the perfect place to combine my love of critical cultural theory, with a more grounded & rigorous approach to primary research. Being based in the Sociology department at Leeds has enabled me to combine these two interests in new, and exciting ways, and has been a great opportunity to work within a diverse and intellectually stimulating field. 

What makes me passionate about my subject?

Traditionally, museums and heritage spaces have been very much marketed towards a white, middle class, able-bodied demographic. However with the recent development of the ‘community museum’, this trend has been disrupted, and museums and heritage sites which deal with recent conflict are often at the forefront of the movement away from paternalistic ideals about social norms and conventions, as they encourage more democratic, bottom-up, forms of cultural representation. I find the collapse of any pretense towards non-bias, or objectivity within these sites refreshing, and am excited by the spaces that they create for genuine, cross-cultural encounters within contemporary society. 

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