Memory and the Impact of Political Transformation in Public Space

Memory and the Impact of Political Transformation in Public Space

Radical Perspectives

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Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 64 b&w photos Published: November 2004

Geography, History > World History, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Memory and the Impact of Political Transformation in Public Space explores the effects of major upheavals—wars, decolonization, and other social and economic changes—on the ways in which public histories are presented around the world. Examining issues related to public memory in twelve countries, the histories collected here cut across political, cultural, and geographic divisions. At the same time, by revealing recurring themes and concerns, they show how basic issues of history and memory transcend specific sites and moments in time. A number of the essays look at contests over public memory following two major political transformations: the wave of liberation from colonial rule in much of Africa, Asia, and Central and South America during the second half of the twentieth century and the reorganization of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet bloc beginning in the late 1980s.

This collection expands the scope of what is considered public history by pointing to silences and absences that are as telling as museums and memorials. Contributors remind us that for every monument that is erected, others—including one celebrating Sri Lanka’s independence and another honoring the Unknown Russian Soldier of World War II—remain on the drawing board. While some sites seem woefully underserved by a lack of public memorials—as do post–Pinochet Chile and post–civil war El Salvador—others run the risk of diluting meaning through overexposure, as may be happening with Israel’s Masada. Essayists examine public history as it is conveyed not only in marble and stone but also through cityscapes and performances such as popular songs and parades.

James Carter
John Czaplicka
Kanishka Goonewardena
Lisa Maya Knauer
Anna Krylova
Teresa Meade
Bill Nasson
Mary Nolan
Cynthia Paces
Andrew Ross
Daniel Seltz
T. M. Scruggs
Irina Carlota Silber
Daniel J. Walkowitz
Yael Zerubavel


“[A] timely and thought-provoking edited volume. . . . [N]either dogmatic nor simplistic. Each chapter, and the accompanying introductions, challenge readers to interrogate the ambivalence, contradictions, and wrenchingly oppositional debates that surround memory in the public sphere. In the end, it asks difficult questions and provides few answers, but stimulates a critical political and social debate for our times.” — Jane Marcus-Delgado , Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies

“[A] useful volume of essays. . . . Taken as a whole they show how collective memory is fragile, contested, multiple, and that representations and silences alike are shaped by real historical experiences filtered through cultural repertoires and power. Turning the pages of the book we find perceptive case studies on monuments, memorials, museum exhibits, folkloric activity, and civic ritual. . . .” — Philip Smith , American Journal of Sociology

“[T]he book brings productive perspectives to bear on the interrelations between history and space, place and identity and expressions of power in the physical and built environment.”
— Margo Huxley , Urban Studies

“Despite being a book about the past, drawing on ideas of history and collective memory, this collection is exceptionally present-minded.” — Alan Gordon, Social History

“The quality of individual essays, is for the most part, very high, and the volume as a whole makes a noteworthy contribution. The essays cover a variety of aspects of public space in countries across the globe, yet the collection attains a sufficient unity due to a number of common themes.” — Paul Stangl , Geographical Review

"[A] smart and fresh introduction concerning issues of historical memory. . . . [A]ll of [the essays] are well-done, informative, and remain fresh. . . . [O]utstanding. . . ." — Michael Kammen , American Studies

“This outstanding collection of essays pushes the boundaries of our understanding of how memory is a powerful force in political transformations around the world. Informed by theoretical writings, but not weighed down by them, the authors tell compelling stories of struggles over memory in a wide range of places. This volume should be read and pondered not only by those thinking and writing about how societies remember but also by those planners and architects and politicians who are rushing to memorialize our own traumatic events.” — Max Page, author of The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900–1940

“When issues of history and memory are publicly controversial, the controversy almost always takes a highly particular contextual form. Striking in its combination of intellectual depth and refreshingly concrete detail, this volume’s unique contribution is to invite reflection on how quite different situations speak to each other, suggesting more general insights that transcend particular contexts.” — Michael Frisch, author of Portraits in Steel


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Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Daniel J. Walkowitz is Director of College Honors and Professor of History and Metropolitan Studies at New York University.

Lisa Maya Knauer is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African/African-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series vii

Introduction / Lisa Maya Knauer and Daniel J. Walkowitz 1

Monuments: Built and Unbuilt 19

Wallace's Monument and the Resumption of Scotland / Andrew Ross 21

The Fall and Rise of Prague's Marian Column / Cynthia Paces 47

Aborted Identity: The Commission and Omission of a Monument to the Nation, Sri Lanka, circa 1989 / Kanishka Goonewardena 65

Dancing on the Graves of the Dead: Building a World War II Memorial in Post-Soviet Russia / Anna Krylova 83

Museums 103

The Politics of Memory in the Bonn and Berlin Republics / Mary Nolan 105

Remembering the War and the Atomic Bombs: New Museums, New Approaches / Daniel Seltz 127

Cityscapes 147

Touring Harbin's Pasts / James Carter 149

The Palace Ruins and Putting the Lithuanian Nation into Place: Historical Stagings in Vilnius / John Czaplicka 167

Memory Sites: Marked and Unmarked 189

Holding the Junta Accountable: Chile's "Sitios de Memoria" and the History of Torture, Disappearance, and Death / Teresa Meade 191

Commemorating the Past in Postwar El Salvador / Irina Carlota Silber 211

The Politics of Remembrance and the Consumption of Space: Masada in Israeli Memory / Yael Zerubavel 233

Performative Commemorations 253

Music, Memory, and the Politics of Erasure in Nicaragua / T.M. Scruggs 255

Commemorating the Anglo-Boer War in Postapartheid South Africa / Bill Nasson 277

Bibliography 295

Discography 315

Notes on Contributors 317

Index 321
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3364-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3377-7
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