Trauma Stories as Resilience: Armenian and Irish National Identity in a Century of Remembering

Sevan Beukian, Rebecca Graff-McRae


This paper explores the intersection of trauma, memory, and identity through the lens of resilience. Here we take resilience in its multiple, even conflicting meanings and resonances – encompassing continuity, persistence, and adaptation. Through the case studies of centenary commemorations in Armenia and Ireland and Northern Ireland, we highlight the ways in which the memory of traumatic historical events both reproduces and challenges dominant narratives of identity. The resilience of memory – its ability to adapt and evolve even as it lays claim to continuity – marks commemoration as a form of haunting, a return with difference that always disrupts the very borders it is deployed to secure. By focusing on resilience understood as the counter-memory that challenges the silencing and overshadowing of mainstream memory, we conclude that it manifests differently in such different cases, and find a surprising point of similarity: the resilience of memory is that it remains. Regardless of claims to timelessness or modernization, the vital function of memory is to persist, to linger, as the trace of the ashes of the conflicted past. In the two cases we look at, the resilience is expressed through counter-memory politics. Through this reflection on two very different cases, we gesture towards a theory of commemoration as resilience that has political implications for post-conflict and post-trauma states.

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