Cross-Community Oral History, Post-Conflict Geography and Conflict Resolution at West Belfast
University of Brighton
This studentship will investigate, evaluate and contribute to further development of the Dúchas Oral History Archive as a tool for conflict resolution and reconciliation in West Belfast. Established by Falls Community Council in 1999, the original aim of the Archive was to record experiences of the Northern Ireland conflict in nationalist West Belfast. This has expanded through peacebuilding work with working-class communities across Belfast. Over time, as contacts with unionist communities emerged and were nurtured, the Archive has developed a cross-community partnership for gathering interviews and creating opportunities for public and private conversations about history and memory. The Archive now contains several collections of interviews with residents at the interfaces between the unionist Shankill and nationalist Divis, Clonard and Springfield areas. The project involves critical exploration of the strategies and practices devised by Dúchas to build relationships across divisions and to acknowledge and deal with a conflicted history. It will examine the Archive’s conception of the relationship between oral history and conflict resolution, its influence on local understandings about the value of cross-community history-making and memory-work, and its role in the societal and policy conversation about the significance of storytelling work in dealing with the past. Through detailed engagement with the narratives collected in the Archive, the project will pioneer their use in making an interpretative history of experiences and memories of ‘place’ on both sides of the interfaces in relation to State policy and practice, before, during and after the Troubles. Drawing on current academic scholarship on life history and memory of conflict, post-conflict geography and conflict resolution, the studentship will contribute to developments in cross-community storytelling and archiving practices by the Dúchas Archive and its partnership organisations, and participate in wider debates amongst community practitioners, policy-makers and academics about the uses and limitations of oral history in conflict resolution and reconciliation.