Seminar with Graham Dawson on Memory and Reconciliation in the Irish Peace Process


On 30 March, the Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies organises a seminar with Prof. Graham Dawson (University of Brighton). He will give a lecture entitled 'Storytelling, Historical Reconciliation and the Politics of Memory in the Irish Peace Process'.

prof. dr. Graham Dawson
Prof. Graham Dawson

Historical Reconciliation through stories

From 'An Crann/The Tree' - launched by Damian Gorman a few weeks after the ceasefires of 1994 to collect stories about the ‘things that we need to hear’ - to the Haass Report of December 2013 with its advocacy of sharing the ‘multiple narratives of those who lived through the conflict’: storytelling derived from personal memory and life history has developed as a central practice in ‘coming to terms with the past’ within the context of the Irish peace process.

Dawson will address some of the key claims made about such storytelling in debates concerned with:

  • its role in establishing ‘closure’ or enabling ‘healing’ of traumatic wounds produced by political violence and injustice;
  • its contribution to transformations in the self and in the society emerging from violent conflict; 
  • its potential to engage divided and conflictual experiences and memories in dialogue leading to historical understanding, empathy and reconciliation. 

He will reflect on the evolution of these debates and the emergence of increasingly rich and complex practices concerned with life - story telling and listening -  primarily within Northern Ireland and Britain. The talk will explore examples of grassroots initiatives in storytelling such as:

  • An Crann/The Tree;
  • 'Healing Through Remembering';
  • the Duchas Oral History Archive in West Belfast;
  • film-makers Cahal McLaughlin and Jolene Mairs;
  • and Building Bridges for Peace.

Together with the participants, Dawson will consider the relation between such work and the official advocacy of storytelling (from the Report of the Victims’ Commissioner Sir Kenneth Bloomfield (1998) to the Report of the Consultative Group on the Past (2009), the Haass Report (2013), and the recent Stormont House Agreement (December 2014); and open up discussion of how the politics of memory might best be understood in this context.

Graham Dawson is Professor of Historical Cultural Studies and Director of the Centre for Research in Memory, Narrative and Histories at the University of Brighton, England. He is author of Soldier Heroes: British Adventure, Empire and the Imagining of Masculinities (1994), and Making Peace with the Past? Memory, Trauma and the Irish Troubles (2007), and co-editor of collections on the politics of war memory, trauma, and contested spaces of conflict.

His current research focuses on memories and legacies of the Troubles in Ireland and Britain, and confronting the past within ‘post-conflict’ cultures and conflict transformation processes. In these projects, Dawson is focusing on memory, cultural representation, imaginative geography, historical justice, and human rights. He is currently co-editing a book on The Northern Ireland Troubles in Britain: Impacts, Engagements, Legacies and Memories, to be published by Manchester University Press in 2015.

This event is supported by Utrecht University's focus area Cultures, Citizenship, and Human Rights.

Start date and time
End date and time
Kromme Nieuwegracht 80, room 1.06
Entrance fee
More information
Website of the Utrecht Forum for Memory Studies