Hearing sectarianism: understanding Scottish sectarianism as song

Simon McKerrell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This article is an attempt to understand how sectarian views in the public domain are constructed through the mediatisation of a highly contentious sectarian song. In 2011, a number of songs were banned by the Scottish Police Service and individuals arrested for performing them. Rarely have the objects of musical experience including songs, tunes, certain instruments or performance contexts been criminalised in the contemporary world, and particularly in late modern Western democratic states. But there has been a very recent, widespread and vigorous debate in Scotland over sectarianism and, in particular, over the performance of sectarian songs. With reference to a case study of The Famine Song, I will show how the song, its performance at football matches, and subsequent mediatisation within the national press have clustered and polarised sectarian difference. Using critical discourse analysis, I examine the lyrical content, context, performance and subsequent reception and mediatisation of the song in the press, to demonstrate how cultural performance can construct sectarian difference in the public imagination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-374
Number of pages12
JournalCritical Discourse Studies
Issue number4
Early online date30 Aug 2012
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2012


  • sectarianism
  • folk song
  • Scotland
  • performance
  • bigotry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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