Life stories, trauma and the politics of memory in the Irish peace process

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


Life-stories produced by practices of popular and grass-roots memory-work have flourished in Northern Ireland since the cease-fires of 1994, yet have received little sustained critical attention. This article proposes a theory and method for the exploration of life stories, survivor memory and trauma in the Troubles grounded on a case study of written and oral life stories about the Bloody Sunday shootings in 1972 and their aftermath in nationalist Derry. The article establishes a framework based on popular-memory theory for analysing life stories in terms of subjectivity, self-composure, the psychic processes of trauma, intersubjective relations of telling and listening, and the relation between personal remembering and public commemoration. This approach is used to examine the social production of survivors' memories in life-story projects undertaken in the context of the 1992 and 1997 anniversary commemorations of Bloody Sunday. These projects open up a history largely concealed since 1972: they provide a rich resource for exploring the traumatic legacy of the atrocity and its denial for individuals, families and the wider nationalist community in Derry; and for understanding the use of storytelling as a means to master traumatic experience, to develop shared and common memory within families and communities, and to reassess the significance of this pivotal moment in the Irish conflict. The article argues that critical examination of published life-story narratives about the Troubles may enable greater understanding of the effects of violent conflict upon the subjectivities of those affected, and further insight into the human dimensions of peace-making in post-conflict culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMemory Ireland: The Famine and the Troubles
Place of PublicationNew York, USA
PublisherSyracuse University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780815652649
ISBN (Print)9780815633518
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

Publication series

NameIrish Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Life stories, trauma and the politics of memory in the Irish peace process'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this