Legacies of the Magdalen Laundries brings together a range of perspectives on Magdalen history, experience, and representation and, indeed, institutionalisation in Ireland. It attends to many different manifestations of the lives and afterlives of institutional systems. The contributors seek to understand how these systems operated and how, after their closure, they have been remembered by varied stakeholders from survivors to artists to politicians. The Magdalen Laundries provide a focus for the volume as they potently illuminate the distinct social experience for vulnerable women in modern Ireland. Magdalen history brings to the fore the contested nature of institutional history, the particular attitudes towards women that saw them incarcerated (many for life), and the equally gendered attitudes that underpin the ways this history was first repressed then, more recently, commemorated. The laundries did not exist in a vacuum: they were part of a network that included Industrial Schools and Mother and Child Institutions. Given the proliferation of institutions, it is startling to note that investigations of Irish institutional history have lacked intersectionality – so alongside an examination of the history and remembrance of the Laundries, this volume considers the wider institutional context to demonstrate the broader dimensions of Ireland’s postcolonial carceral history. To understand this history we must see these institutions, and the women and children incarcerated in them, not as exceptional cases but as expressions of social attitudes that viewed vulnerable members of the population as morally suspect, a ‘problem’ to which the state, church, and citizenry responded through mass institutionalisation.
Responding to the resurgence of verbatim theatre that emerged in Britain, Australia, the United States and other parts of the world in the early 1990s, this book offers one of the first sustained, critical engagements with contemporary verbatim, documentary and testimonial dramaturgies. Offering a new reading of the history of the documentary and verbatim theatre form, the book relocates verbatim and testimonial theatre away from discourses of the real and representations of reality and instead argues that these dramaturgical approaches are better understood as engagements with forms of truth-telling and witnessing. Examining a range of verbatim and testimonial plays from different parts of the world, the book develops new ways of understanding the performance of testimony and considers how dramaturgical theatre can bear witness to real events and individual and communal injustice through the re-enactment of personal testimony. Through its interrogation of different dramaturgical engagements with acts of witnessing, the book identifies certain forms of testimonial theatre that move beyond psychoanalytical accounts of trauma and reimagine testimony and witnessing as part of a decolonised project that looks beyond event-based trauma, addressing instead the experience of suffering wrought by racism and other forms of social injustice.
5 Derrida has featured relatively infrequently in Sebald scholarship and Sebald himself
seems to have shown little interest in poststructuralism or deconstruction, never
mentioning them in interviews. Nevertheless, Derrida’s deconstructive project has a
distinct resonance for post-war, memoryandtraumastudies, all of which have a strong
interest in Sebald’s work. Paul Celan, in particular, offers an intermediary figure between
Sebald and Derrida (see Ceuppens 2007), as might Walter Benjamin.
6 As Michael Wetzel notes in the afterword to his German translation
an account of passive spectatorship. As such, psychoanalytic
conceptualisations of witnessing have been adopted by many scholars
addressing themselves to performance and its audience. Diana Taylor
(1997), Tim Etchells (1999) and Peggy Phelan (1993, 1999), for example,
have all referenced the theorisation of witnessing developed in memoryandtraumastudies, using this to address audience spectatorship and
have argued that the role of the audience can, in some instances, be
understood as a form of witnessing. As Caroline Wake points out, these
engagements with the