'Post-conflict’ Oral History and Conflict Resolution at West Belfast Interfaces
: An Interpretive Examination of the Dúchas Oral History Archive in the Northern Irish Peace Process (1999-2015)

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis examines how the relationship between oral history and conflict resolution has been conceived and developed by the Dúchas Oral History Archive in the ‘post-conflict’ context of West Belfast, Northern Ireland, between 1999 and 2015. It demonstrates how people have mobilised oral history as a conflict resolution tool for negotiating a divided and contested history in and around the interface areas of Belfast within the context of the British State's management of the conflict. It departs from and extends the existing literature on ‘post-conflict’ memory work in Northern Ireland by adopting a conceptual and interpretative lens which makes visible the social and relational dimensions of Dúchas as a community-orientated process and a product. It does so in two ways: Initially, it draws upon John Paul Lederach’s theory for social change and the metaphor of web-making to draw critical attention to the centrality of relationships when investigating community-orientated oral history processes. Then, it makes use of the theories and practices of oral history and memory studies to develop a rationale for incorporating the interviewers’ and not just the interviewee's role in the intersubjective creation of its products (the interviews deposited) as produced within the 'local cultural circuit'. Adopting both lenses to examine three distinctive phases of the Dúchas Archives lifespan, this research maps how a closer examination of the archive's socio-relational processes and products provides a more nuanced framework for evaluating the function of community-orientated oral history. In doing so, it brings debates surrounding the use of oral history in ‘post-conflict’ settings into conversation with literature on the intersubjective composure of memory, as a site for investigating archives in Northern Ireland.

This conversation maps and integrates four interconnected areas of inquiry across the three phases of Dúchas. Foremost, it examines the critical contexts, histories and processes which informed how the archive was conceived and developed throughout its lifespan. This line of enquiry offers a critical history of the archive about the conflict-related work of Falls Community Council (FCC). It also situates Dúchas within the context of the local, financial, and policy-focused landscapes through which it emerged and, in interaction with these landscapes, the individual actors who helped shape it. Secondly, it charts a more intricate relational history of the actors, ideas and people which led to the production and development of a participative community-focused oral history interview process. Thirdly, it engages with the question of how the historical experience of life around the interfaces of West Belfast has been remembered and represented in the stories collected by the archive. This enquiry addresses the role of the interviewers in the composure of memory throughout the peace process by way of understanding what was remembered, why it was remembered and how. Finally, it asks how each phase of the archive, as a process and a product, has been understood by the individuals and organisations involved in it. Ultimately, the contribution of this thesis is twofold: it offers a lens for investigating community-focused oral history in the ‘post-conflict’ context. It also contributes significantly to the ongoing but timely question of how useful oral history is as a mechanism for ‘dealing with the past’ in Northern Ireland.

Date of AwardJun 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorLesley Whitworth (Supervisor), Claire Hackett (Supervisor) & Graham Dawson (Supervisor)


  • Oral History
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Conflict Transformation
  • Northern Ireland
  • Community Archive
  • Post-conflict memory

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