Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Material Testimony: Memorials Bearing Witness to Experiences of Loss and Trauma

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Alison Atkinson-PhillipsORCiD


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


Public memorials play an increasing role in the repertoire of commemorative practices through which societies attempt to come to terms with difficult or uncomfortable pasts. Increasingly, memorials are also used to acknowledge lived experiences of loss and trauma. This represents a shift in the kinds of experiences memorials can be expected to acknowledge and challenges ideas of what a memorial is and what it does. This chapter draws on research conducted within Australia, and considers three examples of memorials that are influenced by transitional justice approaches to truth-telling, and which are used to bring difficult stories of child abuse, forced separation of families and loss of land into the public sphere. Using a narrative therapy approach, this chapter considers the relationships of power that allow such stories to be told in particular ways. These examples offer insights into the strategies survivors of human rights abuses and their supporters use to claim the right to speak and to have their stories heard, and the ways such testimony is constrained. At their best, memorials to lived experience are part of an arsenal of tools available to survivors and their supporters to bear witness to difficult pasts. The materiality of the memorial form can be helpful in assisting such histories to be absorbed into mainstream narratives.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Atkinson-Phillips A

Editor(s): Santos, C; Spahr, A; Crowe Morey, T

Publication type: Book Chapter

Publication status: Published

Book Title: Testimony and Trauma: Engaging Common Ground

Year: 2019

Pages: 13-35

Print publication date: 19/03/2019

Online publication date: 06/03/2019

Acceptance date: 01/01/2018

Series Title: At the Interface / Probing the Boundaries

Publisher: Brill

Place Published: Leiden


DOI: 10.1163/9789004391130_003

Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9789004376748