Conflict, Violence and Memory TFDC 2.15
Jul 04, 2023 11:30 - 13:00(Europe/London)
20230704T1130 20230704T1300 Europe/London 1.5. Contesting and complicating memories of conflict in Northern Ireland: the role of oral history

Issues of memory, legacies of conflict, and dealing with the past, remain vital to the contested political culture in Northern Ireland and continue to threaten the stability of the government there, demonstrating the potential for collective memory and commemoration to undermine the process of reconciliation in a still divided Northern Ireland. Since 1998, society in Northern Ireland has been marked by a tendency towards divided memory, and the proposals on 'how to deal with the past' have consequently been piecemeal and partisan. There has been a persistence of calls for the collection of oral history testimony as part of post-conflict transition in Northern Ireland (Bloomfield 1998, Consultative Group on the Past 2009, DUP election manifesto 2011, Stormont House Agreement 2014, and A Fresh Start 2015) as well as many community- and academic-led projects (e.g. An Crann, Healing Through Remembering, Borderlines Project, Prison Memory Archive, the Belfast Project) which aim to do just that. But what an oral history approach looks like remains contentious. This panel aims to explore the different ways that oral history can create spaces for individual and collective memories to collide, mutate, and consolidate, to draw out conceptions of place, community, and the senses, as well as offer opportunities for solidarity and understanding as NI emerges transitions to a post-conflict state.Spanning collective memories of divergent aspects of activism and everyday experience during the Northern Ireland conflict, these papers explore how interviewees render difficult pasts and negotiate dissonances in the present. Exploring agonistic, sensory, intergenerational, and diasporic dimensions of oral retrospectives, the panel investigates subjects' capacity simultaneously to contest ...

TFDC 2.15 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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Issues of memory, legacies of conflict, and dealing with the past, remain vital to the contested political culture in Northern Ireland and continue to threaten the stability of the government there, demonstrating the potential for collective memory and commemoration to undermine the process of reconciliation in a still divided Northern Ireland. Since 1998, society in Northern Ireland has been marked by a tendency towards divided memory, and the proposals on 'how to deal with the past' have consequently been piecemeal and partisan. There has been a persistence of calls for the collection of oral history testimony as part of post-conflict transition in Northern Ireland (Bloomfield 1998, Consultative Group on the Past 2009, DUP election manifesto 2011, Stormont House Agreement 2014, and A Fresh Start 2015) as well as many community- and academic-led projects (e.g. An Crann, Healing Through Remembering, Borderlines Project, Prison Memory Archive, the Belfast Project) which aim to do just that. But what an oral history approach looks like remains contentious. This panel aims to explore the different ways that oral history can create spaces for individual and collective memories to collide, mutate, and consolidate, to draw out conceptions of place, community, and the senses, as well as offer opportunities for solidarity and understanding as NI emerges transitions to a post-conflict state.
Spanning collective memories of divergent aspects of activism and everyday experience during the Northern Ireland conflict, these papers explore how interviewees render difficult pasts and negotiate dissonances in the present. Exploring agonistic, sensory, intergenerational, and diasporic dimensions of oral retrospectives, the panel investigates subjects' capacity simultaneously to contest and complicate established narratives of conflict.



Dr Sarah Campbell

Remembering '68: an intergenerational approach


There has been a persistence of calls for the collection of oral history testimony as part of post-conflict transition in Northern Ireland. Oral history can provide opportunities for people to remember and narrate their disruptive pasts and provide space for the affective force of their memories to be articulated and imaginatively contained. It can also prove a framework for rich intergenerational interactions. A study in 2018 found that constructive generational influences were thought to contribute to good relations across communities, while destructive generational influences tended to lead to disillusionment with politicians, the political system in general, and the future (Kelly, 2018). Yet, many younger people believe that they are more open-minded than previous generations, but do not have a full understanding of the activism around similar issues they are facing (adequate and affordable housing, jobs, functioning politics) that previous generations have undertaken.
This paper is based on a small pilot project carried out in late 2019 in a mixed school in Belfast between A-level History students and 1968 activists. The students were trained in oral history interviewing techniques and then interviewed activists involved in the civil rights movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The project evaluated the change in perceived levels of generativity among older adults who participate in an intergenerational oral history project, as well as demonstrating the benefits, or otherwise, of this approach for future policy. It also explored the solidarity that could be extended between the generations in building a better future for Northern Ireland, and more sustainable and beneficial ways of 'dealing with the past'.

Dr Sarah Campbell is a Senior Lecturer in Irish and British History at Newcastle University


Eimear Rosato, Concordia University

The Troubles and sensory memory

Northern Ireland has emerged from a violent and traumatic thirty-year conflict known colloquially as the "Troubles" (1969-1998), stemming from unresolved national histories between Republicans, Loyalists, and the British state. The ongoing legacy of the Troubles is found in continued segregated housing and education, political stagnation on issues such as justice, truth, and reconciliation, and continuing violence, with cyclical riots during the Loyalist "marching season" and violent clashes occurring in November 2020 and April 2021.
My PhD project examines intergenerational memory in two bordering working-class communities in North Belfast: the Catholic/Nationalist/Republican community of Ardoyne and the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist community of Woodvale. This presentation will focus on my Oral History walking interviews conducted for this project, uncovering the nature of place-based memories in North Belfast, through the lens of the various generations which live there. Central to this framework is how people remember, and what prompts, sites of significance or sensory indicators contribute to the remembering process. The participants detail their individual, family, and wider community histories through conversations around the sensory geographies of their neighbourhoods, highlighting personal struggles but also the wider historical imbalances of working-class communities on both sides of the political divide in Northern Ireland. The practice of walking or moving through a city/neighbourhood can act as a memory device, as participants weave through the streets and allow for moments of reflection in spaces that potentially no longer hold the same historic meaning for younger generations. This presentation will examine the sensory nature of personal memory and how it is evoked through various sensory prompts – may that be through remembering the taste of foods eaten during their childhood, the smell of CS gas, or the sound of certain songs sung at funerals or in the social clubs.
This presentation speaks to the ways that we think and approach history and memory, and how our memories are constantly being reshaped through our everyday experiences and through the landscape.


Prof Chris Reynolds, Nottingham Trent University

Slow Memory, Oral History, and the challenge of the past in Northern Ireland

This paper contributes to ongoing and important debates on the issue of "legacy" as part of the Northern Irish Peace Process. Recent and controversial proposals suggested that the most effective way forward on dealing with the legacy of Northern Ireland's difficult past would be to draw a line under happened during the Troubles and move on. Widespread opposition to such an expeditious approach underscores just how far off the mark they are in terms of understanding the sensitivities of this question that renders it so important and challenging. Whilst consensus has been growing on the need to confront the conundrum of the past head on, little in the way of genuine progress has been made with the current predicament at somewhat of an impasse. Overcoming this particular blockage, it will be argued, is predicated on a genuine recognition of the true complexities, sensitivities, and difficulties that "legacy" represents. Instead of attempting to quickly draw a line under the past via some sort of amnesty, what is required is an approach grounded in slowness, agonism, and oral history. The paper will focus in particular on the emergent concept of 'Slow Memory' and how it offers a potentially fruitful response to the difficulties that the past represents in the context of post-conflict Northern Ireland. It will be argued that such an approach can create the space to capture the true magnitude and diversity of experiences and memories of the Troubles. In so doing, the past can be transformed from one of the most significant stumbling blocks facing the Peace Process to one of its most vital sources of sustainability.

Senior Lecturer in Irish History
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Newcastle University
PhD Candidate
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Concordia University, Montreal
Professor
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Nottingham Trent Univeirsty
Senior Lecturer in Irish History
,
Newcastle University
Post doc
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Department of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg
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