Rhetoric and victimhood in Northern Ireland

  • Andrew McNeill

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

This thesis explores post-conflict victimhood as it manifests itself in Northern Ireland. While extensive research has been carried out into the subject, most research in psychology considers victimhood to be a cognitive or perhaps a clinical phenomenon. This thesis proposes that victimhood is fundamentally a rhetorical phenomenon by which the possessors of the status can use it to argue about what should be done for victims and perpetrators. Because it is a coveted status, people argue about the limits of victimhood, to whom it applies and how it should be handled. These arguments about what a victim is, who is a victim and what should be done about victims are the focus of these studies. The thesis follows in the tradition of rhetorical and discursive psychology by offering a rhetorical conception of a subject not typically treated as rhetoric. In it I consider recent research into victimhood which I argue can be reconceptualised in rhetorical terms. The empirical chapters begin by looking at how the nature of victimhood is constructed in newspapers through the use of metaphors. I then move to considering how these newspaper articles argue about what should be done about victims by considering their use of argumentation (Chapter 4). The ideological dilemmas surrounding these arguments suggest that there are always opposing ideas to any ideas about how to deal with victims. In Chapters 5 and 6 I explore how the definition of a victim and ways of dealing with victims are argued about in political manifestos. In Chapters 7 and 8 I look at the same issues as in 5 and 6 but from the perspective of victims. Several focus groups are analysed and in Chapter 8 particular emphasis is placed on how a rhetorical perspective on needs can give insight into arguments about victimhood.
Date of AwardDec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorEvanthia Lyons (Supervisor), Clifford Stevenson (Supervisor) & Samuel Pehrson (Supervisor)

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