Conflicts of Memory: Mediating and Commemorating the 2005 London Bombings

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Sociology

Abstract

People routinely remember and use the past by interwining personal narratives with public events. People remember where they were when dramatic events occurred. These may be highly mediated memories, in film, on television, and in print, but they are still part of our very real personal and collective memories. Personal biography intersects with history in just this implicit way, locating the unfolding details of everyday life in terms of the events of the larger society - history in the making. This project traces the linkages between the media and our everyday remembering of past events through comparing the instant and archival capacities of television with people's own retellings of events.

Very recently, there has been a massive increase in the availability and use of mobile phones equipped with cameras and videos in the UK which has led to images and film captured by bystanders being used to help create and shape 'breaking news' stories. Our research will investigate the impact of these 'personal' media and 'individual' accounts on television news coverage of traumatic events (the July 2005 London bombings) and also on how these events are later commemorated on television, and how they ultimately come to be remembered by the public.

Rather than argue that television wipes out memory and feeling - however much it may reduce complex events to soundbites and talking heads - we suggest that television may also keep memories alive and dynamic.

Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
AH/E002579/1 01/01/2008 31/03/2010 £146,524
AH/E002579/2 Transfer AH/E002579/1 31/03/2010 31/03/2011 £72,100
 
Description The project team assembled and mined a diverse and complex corpus of objects, actions, places, events, people and a range of medial representations enabling the tracking and analysis of individual and collective 'trajectories' of rememberings of the 2005 London bombings.

A range of key media templates were identified as pivotal to the breaking news and commemoration of 7/7 including images of survivors of the bombings. The team were able to understand the production and circulation of these images as a result of access to a number of survivors. Other kinds of images identified also had a key role in the local mediation of commemoration, such as the diagrams of the bombed trains used by survivors groups during their meetings. The process of producing composite images was found to be highly contested, with some activist groups (e.g. Leeds/Beeston) taking a proactive approach to the production and management of images, particularly around the year and two year anniversary commemorations. Identification of media templates from strand 1 shaped strand 2 analysis of the reflexive framing of commemorative activities such as the St Paul's commemoration and the Hyde Park memorial.

The most prevalent narrative-facilitated identities in the breaking news coverage were those of the 'distressed', 'fateful' and 'calm witness'. However, journalists also adopted similar narrator roles, the identity of the 'journalist-as-witness' emerging as central to both breaking and commemorative news sets of coverage. This journalistic identity was characterized by a mixture of 'lay' (ordinary self) and 'expert' (professional journalist) discourse practices and reflects recent trends in news discourse and journalism towards emotionalisation and personalization.

Strand 1 analysis of mobile media use revealed the different semiotic resources used to embed such materials within news reports. This was investigated following the latest developments in critical semiotics/multimodality (Kress 2010). We identified a range of generic means of framing that contributed to sanitise visually and acoustically the more gruesome aspects of the images/sounds in the original mobile media files.

The project team obtained accounts of the commemoration process from a range of stakeholders who contributed to 'official' and 'counter' versions of 7/7. A key finding is that personal involvement with the bombings tends to be associated with a view of the bombings as having significance at the local rather than national level (e.g. as a story about London rather than the 'War on Terror'). The argumentative context set up by official versions of events, was found to be problematic for a range of participants who subsequently chose to erase some of the symbolic aspects of their commemorative activities so not to be seen lending credence to the state-sponsored view of 7/7. The affective dimensions of this work became a major theme for strand 2, leading to the formulation of a novel view of 'living memorials' whose commemorative work occurs through the extension of life rather than symbolization.

We identified a range of obligatory points of passage, including formal commemorative events and sites (St Paul's, Hyde Park, Beeston/Leeds) and particular templates (survivors emerging from the underground). The mediatisation of 7/7 was found to set up discursive dilemmas for memory and for commemoration (constructing survivors as 'victims' in the 'War on Terror') but also offering significant opportunities for reframing the bombings in a local context (the physical design of the Hyde Park memorial). A range of affective strategies for managing 'interessement' to obligatory points of passage (cf. Callon, 1986) were identified, such as the production of 'living memorials', the recontextualisation of key images, and the development of informal commemorative practices (tree planting, participation in charitable work, publishing autobiographical accounts of events).
Exploitation Route The resumption of the Coroner's inquests into the London bombings in October 2010 (following their initial opening and adjournment in July 2005) although late in the lifetime of the project (month 34) was an event we could not ignore. The hearings involved the presentation, examination and cross-examination of multiple iterations of personal, public, semi-public testimony, images, and objects, variously packaged through the directions of the Coroner, Lady Justice Hallett. In other words, these were precisely the dynamic memorial phenomena that the project had sought to track and interrogate in its inception (although explicitly through commemorative cycles). The resumption of the inquests were a new and stark intervention that assembled and re-assembled multiple, mobile and conflicting memories mediated through intense news media coverage, including those of the survivors, the bereaved, emergency service personnel, as well as the State and the security services (with some as represented by barristers in court).

Hoskins spent several days at the Royal Courts of Justice including time in the company of John Tulloch (especially during the hearings on the Edware tube bomb in which he was seriously injured). This enabled both a new phase of the mediation of memory to be identified and preliminarily interrogated, and a new framework of analysis to be contributed to the unfolding project. The involved further interviews with John Tulloch, collection and initial analysis of TV, radio and print news coverage, and also initial analysis of the transcripts of proceedings of the inquests and uploaded to the Coroner's website each day, and which shaped ongoing news coverage.

Consequently we identified another cathartic turn (extending our analysis of first anniversary commemorative news discourses) yet this time embedded in an attempt at 'monumentalization' of the London bombings. Namely, we found an (re-)emergent set of conflicts of memory pivoting around the personal (including survivors, bereaved, emergency personnel), cultural, journalistic, legalistic and governmental discourses of a desire or otherwise for 'closure' (and the differential consequences of this being attained, i.e. for a 'satisfactory' accounting of the events, responses and responsibilities of those involved in 7/7).

So, we identified a new centrifugal dynamic of remembrances over this period: the inquests (and their direction under Lady Hallett) were constructed as providing a definitive version of 7/7 (motivated by attempts to establish the how, when and why of human injury and death, for the bereaved families and for the survivors, and an apparent intent to exonerate the emergency services in terms of their responses on the 7th July 2005). This newly institutionalized version verified in court was transcribed with other digitized documentary evidence, and uploaded daily en masse to the public website of the Inquiry. On the one hand this represents a monumentalization of 7/7 (including via remediations in news reports and documentaries) but on the other, provides a fixed public corpus available for unlimited future scrutiny and challenge.

From our analysis of these emergent configurations and remediations of 7/7, we developed a model of 'interactional trajectories of memory' (published as Hoskins' special issue article and a forthcoming co-authored book with Tulloch) whereby individual memories can be conceived of as navigations, that both intersect with and compete against an ongoing series of encounters with people, objects, archives, media, and events. So, whereas many traditional approaches are constrained by the idea of memory conceived of as something merely residual and often inevitably in decline, our project mapped and revealed rememberings of the London bombings as an ongoing trajectory of connections, and demonstrated the value of a longitudinal analysis of intersecting and colliding commemorative, memorial and legal mediated remembrances.

Further work on the Coroner's inquests into the London bombings in October 2010 has now been taken forward and forms part of a new book authored by the PI Andrew Hoskins and the London Bombings' survivor John Tulloch, published in 2016 by Oxford University Press: 'Risk and Hyperconnectivity'.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description Our key mode of advancing knowledge and understanding to individuals and groups outside of academia was through seeding work directly back to survivors, activist groups, architects etc. - namely the diverse constituency that we engaged with through informal community work and through ongoing interviews and focus groups. Clearly, our ongoing engagement with John Tulloch over and beyond the lifetime of the project and in relation to a range of different contexts and experiences (mediatisation, healing, memories, politics, the Coroner's Inquests) is a key example.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Invited lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited secure by PI: 'The Mediatization of Memory: War and Memory in a Media Age', University of Technology, Sydney.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Invited panellist 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invited Panellist, 'The London Bombings Five Years On: Reflections on the Future of Counterterrorism' Conference, Chatham House, London, 7 July 2010.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Invited participant 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact PI invited to speak at 'The 'War on Terror' By Any Other Name: Ethical Dimensions of Foreign Policy' Panel, Houses of Westminster, 25 February 2009.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Invited public lecture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Keynote: Public Lecture: 'Media, War and Memory', Macquarie, Sydney, 20 October 2010.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Invited speaker 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited Talk: 'Media, Commemoration and Uncertainty', 'Documentation and Disaster', Collaborative Symposium, Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (Glasgow) and Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies (Tokyo), University of Glasgow, 21 March 2012.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Invited speaker 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk: 'Television and Memory', Australian Research Council Cultural Research Network, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, 16 October 2009.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009,2012
 
Description Invited speaker 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited Paper: Anxiety in Late Modernity Symposium, Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, 26 June 2014.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Invited speaker 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk: 'Premediation and Memory', Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge, 2 March 2011.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Keynote 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynote: 'Media, Memory and Uncertainty', Scientific Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ljubljana, 26 January 2012.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Keynote 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynote: '7/7 and Connective Memory', Film and Memory: Fourth Scottish Consortium for Film and Visual Studies Conference, University of Stirling, 9 June 2011.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Project Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact AHRC closing project symposium: Conflicts of Memory: Mediating and Commemorating the 2005 London Bombings, Nottingham, 3-4 December 2010.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010