The meaning of “moving on”: From trauma to the history and memory of emotions in “post-conflict” Northern Ireland

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‘Trauma’ has become a pervasive trope in discourse and practice concerned with the affective legacies of the Northern Ireland Troubles. This article argues that its productivity may now be exhausted. Whether homogenised as the trace of an unspeakable wound or medicalised as PTSD, orthodox concepts of trauma offer limited understandings of subjectivities shaped by violent conflict and the possibilities of their transformation. These constraints are identified in three areas: academic studies of the history and memory of the Troubles, victims’ support, and storytelling conceived as an aspect of peacebuilding. The article advocates shifting the frame of investigation towards conceptions of the internal world of embodied feelings and the meanings ascribed to emotions, that are capable of recognizing the complex temporalities of emotional experience and exploring the shifting modes of its management, containment, expression and performance within social and political relations and practices. In object-relations psychoanalysis, Raymond Williams’ ‘structures of feeling’, and the emerging field of emotional history, the article locates critical resources with potential to inform new thinking about the affective legacies of the Irish conflict and the meaning of ‘moving on’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-102
Number of pages21
JournalIrish University Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

This article has been accepted for publication by Edinburgh University Press in the Irish University Review, DOI: 10.3366/iur.2017.0258


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