Victim or survivor? Emerging narratives from experiences of terrorism

Document Type

Journal Article


University of Melbourne

Place of Publication



School of Arts and Humanities




Jacques, C. (2017). Victim or Survivor? Emerging Narratives from Experiences of Terrorism. PLATFORM: Journal of Media & Communication, 8(2), 40-52.


This paper explores the impacts of terrorism, and of consequent disability, on three people. Two participants have a direct, and one has an indirect, experience of terrorism, but all have been deeply impacted by their encounter in the physicality of everyday existence. Using storytelling, as described by Hannah Arendt (1998), as the medium for exploring the daily lives of people directly affected by a terrorist attack, I choose here to focus on the ways in which they describe their disability, or their relationship to disability, and the meanings they create around their direct experience of terrorism. I seek to understand the ethical struggles of life after a terrorist attack. I ask how does one live an ethical life, a life that seems ‘right’ in the eyes of the person concerned? Through two stories, that of “Phoenix”, a victim of the 2002 Bali Bombings, and of Gill Hicks, a survivor of the 2005 London bombings, and her partner Karl Falzon, I explore how the long-term physical effects of terrorism play a significant role in the ways victims and survivors reassert themselves into their social world. Part of the agency implicit in the storytelling shared by these participants is encapsulated in the perceptions that these people are survivors, not victims; and this also impacts upon the various ways in which they approach living a good life with a disability and as a visible reminder of the randomness and extraordinary ferocity of terrorist attacks.

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