Graham Dawson

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Research interests

Professor Graham Dawson is the University of Brighton's professor in Historical Cultural Studies, with seminal publications on the cultural memory of war and conflict. His research is interdisciplinary, drawing on cultural studies, history, literature, cultural geography and psychoanalysis. It investigates the inter-relations between memory, narrative, lived experience and identity, with a particular interest in the personal memories and subjectivities produced in oral histories/life stories and the cultural and political ramifications of their relation to public and national representations of the past and the future. 

Dawson's main focus is on the politics of memory and ‘post-conflict’ culture in the Irish peace process, and legacies of the Northern Irish Troubles in Ireland and Britain. His current interests lie in the cultural politics and temporal dynamics of ‘the past’ within conflict transformation, involving questions of memory and silence; subjectivity, identity and emotion; representation and acknowledgement; imaginative geography and historical justice. He is Co-I for a major AHRC-funded oral history project, Conflict, Migration and Memory: Northern Irish Migrants and the Troubles in Great Britain. His next monograph, Afterlives of the Troubles: Life Stories, Culture and Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland, will be published by Manchester University Press. He has a particular interest in, and commitment to, grassroots and community-based memorywork and has developed a close relationship with the Dúchas Oral History Archive at Falls Community Council in West Belfast, through research that utilises its interview collection, participation in collaborative community history projects, and the design and co-supervision of PhD research on Dúchas's use of oral history as a practice of conflict transformation. 

Professor Dawson is a member of the university's Centre for Memory, Narrative and Histories, and coordinates its research grouping on 'The Northern Ireland Troubles: memories, afterlives and transformations of conflict', which is a member of the European Federation of Associations and Centres of Irish Studies. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the British Association for Irish Studies, the Oral History Society and the Memory Studies Association. 

Scholarly biography

Graham Dawson's first degree was in English with Cultural and Community Studies from the University of Sussex. He studied as a postgraduate at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham, where he was supervised by Richard Johnson and worked as a member of the Popular Memory Group from 1979-1986. He was awarded a doctorate in 1991. His first book, Soldier Heroes: British Adventure, Empire and the Imagining of Masculinities (1994) is acclaimed internationally as a cultural studies classic and continues to be read and cited by researchers in diverse fields of study in many parts of the world.

Since 1995 the main focus of Graham Dawson's research has been on questions of cultural memory, violence and conflict transformation in the Northern Irish Troubles and the Irish peace process. This has resulted in a similarly influential second monograph, Making Peace with the Past? Memory, Trauma and the Irish Troubles (Manchester University Press, 2007); a ground-breaking co-edited book, The Northern Ireland Troubles in Britain: Impacts, Engagemements, Legacies and Memories (Manchester University Press, 2017), and numerous articles. Over this period he was an Editorial Board member of the Routledge Studies in Memory and Narrative book series published by Routledge and Transaction (1996-2007), participated in several national and international networks involved in the study of memory, and co-edited  three further books - on the politics of war memory and commemoration, on trauma, and on contested spaces and the representation of conflicted pasts - as well as presenting more than one hundred lectures, seminars and other public talks in the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa and many European countries. 

Dawson's recent research develops the study of ‘post-conflict’ culture and the Irish peace process, focusing on temporal and spacial legacies of the Troubles in the North of Ireland and in Britain. This is informed by, and contributes to, wider transnational debates concerned with the cultural dimensions of dealing with the past within conflict transformation processes, involving questions of memory and subjectivity, representation, imaginative geography and historical justice. 

In 2008 Prof Dawson co-founded the Centre for Memory, Narrative and Histories (CMNH) at Brighton, and served as its Director until 2021. Under his leadership CMNH secured its status as one of the university's Centres of Research and Enterprise Excellence in 2017 and developed its international reputation for innovative and socially and politically engaged research on the cultural significance of 'the past'. Between 2013-16 he co-led, with Prof Bob Brecher of the Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics, the 'Understanding Conflict: Forms and Legacies of Political Violence' research cluster, which established CMNH as an exciting location for PhD research on the culture and memory of war and conflict.

Professor Dawson has supervised twelve PhDs to completion and is currently supervising four students, the majority of these being recipients of fully-funded studentships from the AHRC TECHNE consortium, including two Collaborative Doctoral Awards in partnership with the Imperial War Museums and Falls Community Council, West Belfast.


Supervisory Interests

Professor Dawson has supervised five PhDs to completion, and is currently supervising ten students, the majority being recipients of fully-funded studentships from the AHRC TECHNE consortium, including Collaborative Doctoral Awards in partnership with the Imperial War Musems and Falls Community Council. 

He welcomes applications for doctoral study and supervision on the cultural history, representation and memory of war and conflict, on the cultural history, geography and memory of the Northern Ireland Troubles and peace process in Britain and Ireland, on ‘post-conflict’ cultures and subjectivities, and on the cultural and historical dimensions of conflict transformation.


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