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‘Quite a Profound Day’: The Public Performance of Memory by Military Witnesses at the Bloody Sunday Tribunal

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 June 2006


This article examines elements of performance in the giving of evidence by military witnesses to the Saville Tribunal's Inquiry into the events of ‘Bloody Sunday’ – the day in 1972 when thirteen civilians were shot dead by British Army paratroops during a banned civil rights protest in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland. The performative nature of testimony represented an unstable element in this tribunal's attempt to reconstruct the past, raising a number of provoking questions concerning the nature and process of the legal pursuit of truth, in particular the ways in which the performative aspects of proceedings – grounded in the evocation of the past through the enacted memory of witnesses – function. Through tracing and analysing the process of memory recall in the testimonial performance of particular military witnesses to the tribunal, watched by the author, the essay considers the affective impact of courtroom testimony and the effect of this on the legal context in which testimony is given.

International Federation for Theatre Research 2006

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The research and writing of this article was facilitated by a Research Leave Award from the United Kingdom Arts and Humanities Research Council.