The burden of memory: Victims, storytelling and resistance in Northern Ireland

Bill Rolston, C. Hackett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


The article examines the potential and limitations of storytelling for victims of political violence. It rejects the view that storytelling is unproblematic, a way for victims to ‘get things off their chest’. It examines a wide range of literature on storytelling and testimony, from the Holocaust through to contemporary transitional societies. In particular, attention is focused on the experience of victims and survivors telling their stories in formal settings such as truth commissions and trials in South Africa and the former Yugoslavia, as well as at unofficial storytelling processes in the North of Ireland. The authors look at the potential of storytelling as resistance to injustice and conclude that while unofficial processes of storytelling present opportunities for collective solidarity, the stories often go unacknowledged by the wider society. Conversely, they also conclude that, while official mechanisms of truth recovery can ensure wide legitimacy for the stories of victims, this is often at the cost of marginalising the storyteller and the story.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355
JournalMemory Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2009


  • Ireland
  • memory
  • resistance
  • storytelling
  • truth recovery


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