Accepted paper:

'Past Presencing' for the Future: Performed Storytelling in Post-Conflict Northern Ireland


Magdalena Weiglhofer

Paper short abstract:

Informed by the analysis of performed storytelling in post conflict Northern Ireland, this paper explores how stories from ‘below’ can act as both a challenge to hegemonic narratives of history and to the way that memories are passed on.

Paper long abstract:

Since - and despite - the peace agreement in Northern Ireland in 1998, it seems that the political vision of identity pluralism for the post-conflict society is still reduced to a 'two communities' model that results in demands for 'equality' on a tit-for-tat level. By investigating how, through publicly portrayed narratives of life during the conflict and its aftermath, it may be possible to bring to light stories that have been left untold or hidden in favour of a collective politicised and official memory, this paper discusses to what extent these stories can be a means to challenge a preservation of collective memory that perpetuates an 'us and them' mentality. My analyses are based on ethnographic research on two community drama projects that used the tool of real life storytelling transformed into public performance. Participant observation, interviewing and documentation of the projects allow me to take into account the interdependency between private and public meaning and consider aspects of ownership, agency and power discourses as well as issues of 'truth' and possible (ethical) challenges through this process of displaying one's own experiences to a public space. My research is also looking at in how far the concept of embodied memories responds to John Paul Lederach's call (2005) for a moral imagination that empowers us to imagine and create new stories that help redefine collective identity by acknowledging the past but recognising that every historically developed social form is in fluid movement in which multiple realities are possible.

panel SE02
Ethnic-religious segregation: the preservation of memory or the preservation of conflict (IUAES Commission on Urban Anthropology)