Making peace with the past? Memory? Trauma and the Irish Troubles
Graham, Dawson (2007) Making peace with the past? Memory? Trauma and the Irish Troubles Manchester University Press, UK.
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This essay initiated Dawson’s investigation of the psychic and political factors determining narratives of memory produced by ‘victims of violence’ during the Irish peace process. It contributed to a collection of essays developing international debate on questions of memory, identity and voice across several different cultures undergoing political transition from conflict. The first study of its kind, this research was based on fieldwork with three ‘victims' groups’ established in the Border areas of Northern Ireland since the 1994 paramilitary ceasefires, to support and represent Protestant and Unionist victims of IRA violence. The essay analyses their engagement in various kinds of ‘memorywork’, public and private, whereby narratives articulating individual and collective experiences of violence were ‘given voice’. These narratives are analysed in terms of their strategies of psychic defence, as victims endeavour to make meaningful and containable disturbing and often traumatic experiences of fear and loss; and also in terms of their articulation of a Border-Protestant collective memory of ‘ethnic cleansing’ by the IRA, a political narrative deployed to contest Republican legitimations of the ‘armed struggle’. The study establishes a twofold context for these memories: firstly in the particular circumstances of the ‘rural war’ fought in the Border regions and its specific impact upon the local Unionist communities; and secondly in what is postulated as the ‘politics of victimhood’ that developed in the early years of the peace process, as both Unionist and nationalist victims and survivors campaigned for recognition, redress and resolution for their own experiences of violence, and contested the terms of the British Government’s hegemonic strategy for conflict resolution. In its exploration of the ‘awkward voices’ of these Border-Protestant victims' groups, and their paradoxical implications for peace-making, this research enquiry formulated an argument that is refined and extended in Dawson’s current work.
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