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Practice, Power and Inertia: Personal Narrative, Archives and Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland

Hamber, Brandon and Kelly, Grainne (2016) Practice, Power and Inertia: Personal Narrative, Archives and Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland. Journal of Human Rights Practice, 8 (1). pp. 25-44. [Journal article]

[img] Text (Pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF) - Accepted Version

DOI: 10.1093/jhuman/huw001


Through the prism of Northern Ireland, this article explores the function of existing and proposed archives within societies emerging from conflict, and highlights their potential in adding complexity to understanding conflict and challenging dominant narratives. The article outlines how, despite progress since the Northern Ireland peace accord in 1998, efforts to deal with the past and human rights violations have been piecemeal and politically contested. In the absence of a comprehensive approach to the past, testimony gathering, initiated ‘unofficially’ at a community level, has provided opportunities for individuals’ experiences of the conflict to be documented and acknowledged. The recent Stormont House Agreement (2014) seeks to establish an Oral History Archive as a central repository for individuals to ‘share experiences and narratives related to the Troubles’. The article discusses the challenges in developing this ‘official’ archive, and the problem of reconciling competing historical narratives of the past. This is contrasted against the growth in bottom-up ‘storytelling’ or testimony work. The article argues for supplementing the official process with wider testimony gathering processes directed by and located within community contexts. It is argued that the deliberate juxtaposition of contrasting horizontal or inter-community narratives held by different local parties may allow for the emergence of a more complex and inclusive narrative of the past, rather than attempts to impose a shared vertical narrative, which is subject to either further contestation or uncomfortable compromise.

Item Type:Journal article
Keywords:archives, dealing with the past, narratives, Northern Ireland, storytelling, testimony
Faculties and Schools:Faculty of Social Sciences > INCORE
Faculty of Social Sciences
Research Institutes and Groups:Institute for Research in Social Sciences > Politics & International Studies
Transitional Justice Institute
Institute for Research in Social Sciences
ID Code:34027
Deposited By: Professor Brandon Hamber
Deposited On:06 Apr 2016 09:21
Last Modified:14 Mar 2018 23:23

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