Memory, Space & Place WG | Conflict, Violence and Memory NUBS 3.07
Jul 05, 2023 11:00 - 12:30(Europe/London)
20230705T1100 20230705T1230 Europe/London 3.3. Sites and Structures of Memory: Reshaping Post-Atrocity Societies through Public Engagement with the Past

This panel analyzes sites of memory in post-atrocity contexts and how they contribute to re-shaping the sociopolitical and spatial structures associated with past violence. How can public displays of memory respond to the legacies of past violence, altering the literal and figurative structures that continue to impact communities? Conversely, when do memory initiatives perpetuate the resonating effects of past violence? The four presentations included in this panel explore the connection between structures of violence and structures of memory, asking how and when the latter can positively impact the former. In her presentation, Kaitlin Murphy investigates the possibilities that come from integrating decolonial theory into memory practice, gesturing toward the decolonial memory space as one that actively engages with the structures of violence that presuppose its existence. Kerry Whigham pushes against the idea that memory spaces are inherently preventive, instead demanding a more rigorous approach that evaluates memory spaces not by what they are, but what they do. Gruia Badescu focuses on more literal structures of memory by illustrating how the physical transformation of architecture in post-conflict societies contributes to reshaping those very societies. Finally, Alexandra Délano Alonso and Benjamin Nienass engage the crisis of migrant deaths on the US-Mexico border to discuss how public acts of grief can sometimes be co-opted by bad actors in order to sustain the very structures of violence that caused the grief to begin with. Together, the panel examines memory in relation to structures of violence–a relationship in which memory can at times dismantle those structures and at other times fortify them even further.

Kaitlin M. MurphyMemory and Decolon ...

NUBS 3.07 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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This panel analyzes sites of memory in post-atrocity contexts and how they contribute to re-shaping the sociopolitical and spatial structures associated with past violence. How can public displays of memory respond to the legacies of past violence, altering the literal and figurative structures that continue to impact communities? Conversely, when do memory initiatives perpetuate the resonating effects of past violence? The four presentations included in this panel explore the connection between structures of violence and structures of memory, asking how and when the latter can positively impact the former. In her presentation, Kaitlin Murphy investigates the possibilities that come from integrating decolonial theory into memory practice, gesturing toward the decolonial memory space as one that actively engages with the structures of violence that presuppose its existence. Kerry Whigham pushes against the idea that memory spaces are inherently preventive, instead demanding a more rigorous approach that evaluates memory spaces not by what they are, but what they do. Gruia Badescu focuses on more literal structures of memory by illustrating how the physical transformation of architecture in post-conflict societies contributes to reshaping those very societies. Finally, Alexandra Délano Alonso and Benjamin Nienass engage the crisis of migrant deaths on the US-Mexico border to discuss how public acts of grief can sometimes be co-opted by bad actors in order to sustain the very structures of violence that caused the grief to begin with. Together, the panel examines memory in relation to structures of violence–a relationship in which memory can at times dismantle those structures and at other times fortify them even further.



Kaitlin M. Murphy

Memory and Decoloniality: Critical Intersections and Future Histories

Memory is often considered to possess certain emancipatory effects, including in relationship to understanding violent histories and correcting false narratives, making human rights claims, recovering from violence and mass atrocity, and fighting for different and better futures. Similar to memory studies, decoloniality takes many different shapes and interventions, but they all share fundamental claims: it is impossible to make sense of the present outside of its relationship to the violent histories of imperialism and colonial rule, and the project of decoloniality is not just to interrogate the legacies of these histories but also to imagine-and fight for-a world after, but one which has yet to come into existence. Thus, although profoundly different scholarly and activist projects, memory and decoloniality have much to offer each other, even as the theoretical intersections between the two remain largely understudied. As such, this paper investigates the critical exchanges and overlaps between theories and practices of decoloniality and memory studies, anchored in the study of three interconnected place-based memory projects: Equal Justice Initiative's Legacy Museum, National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and Community Remembrance Project in Montgomery, Alabama. I argue that memory sites play a critical role in shaping historical narratives and cultural reckoning with violent racist pasts and their ongoing impact. While in many ways backward-facing, memory sites are also profoundly forward-looking in the values and narratives they articulate and the kinds of dialogues and community practices they have the potential to cultivate, making them-potentially-profoundly decolonial projects. Through such analysis, my aim is to explore what new pathways and possibilities emerge at the convergence of decolonial and memory theory and how this may both deepen our understanding and reframe our thinking about the lived experience, legacies, and memory practices connected to deeply entrenched structural violence.


Kerry Whigham

Beyond Remembering: Can Spaces of Memory Really Prevent?

George Santayana famously wrote that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. All too often, however, memory is used as a tool for stoking divisions rather than promoting cohesion. How, then, are memory initiatives like memory sites, memorials, and museums contributing to preventing the recurrence of future violence, if at all? As transitional justice has grown as a field and as an international mandate in post-atrocity contexts over the past several decades, the memorialization of past atrocities through the construction of physical spaces of memory has increasingly been recognized as an essential aspect of this complex process. Often, these memory spaces are touted not only as honoring past victims, but also as important tools for preventing future violence. To date, there has yet to emerge a clear way to measure exactly how sites of memory contribute to atrocity prevention. Can a site of memory really help prevent further acts of atrocity violence? If so, when and how are sites of memory a preventive force? This presentation describes the findings of three years of research into more than 300 memory sites around the world, with a focus on the programming and activities undertaken by various sites not only to engage with the past, but to respond to contemporary risks of large scale, identity based violence. This presentation posits that memory sites can be identified as preventive when they succeed at mitigating or eliminating any of the identifiable risk factors that lead to atrocity. Through a combination of survey data that gauges the programming choices of sites in more than 50 countries and in depth data gathered through site visits and interviews at over 100 sites in 7 countries, this presentation explores if and how memory initiatives are considering the present and future as they represent and remember the past. Drawing from an array of examples, it will illustrate how memory practices in a selection of post atrocity societies are contributing to the mitigation of atrocity risk factors, therefore making the recurrence of violence less likely.


Gruia Badescu

Architectural intentionality after destruction: Engaging with the memory of loss through place-making practice

The destruction of the built environment is at the same time an act of erasure of a spatial memory, as well as constitutive of memory itself, often connected with trauma and loss. How do architects, habitually tasked to build, respond to acts of spatial erasure? My research interrogates the intentionality of architects working in post-destruction urban environments: to what extent their participation in design projects in such areas involve a consideration of memory concerns, and is how that articulated? This paper showcases three instances of a memory-based approaches on destroyed areas. First, I discuss what I call a reflective reconstruction of ruins after war, based on research in post-war contexts in the former Yugoslavia. Second, I highlight the architectural activism in Cape Town to reshape an area that was destroyed because of racial planning laws during the apartheid regime. Finally, I analyse a recent attempt to deal with architectural absence in the long aftermath of large-scale urban destruction called for by the Ceausescu dictatorship in Romania. Through this discussion of architectural intentionality after war, dictatorship, and apartheid, I show the potential and the limits of attempts to engage with the memory of urban destruction through spatial practice.


Alexandra Délano Alonso and Benjamin Nienass

Public grief and political transformation

Expressions of public grief have been ever more present in the context of growing numbers of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, at the US-Mexico border, and other regions. However, the political and transformative potential of collective acts of mourning has been increasingly put into question. Instead of posing a tangible challenge to border policy, public acts of grief and commemoration have often been co-opted or actively employed by state actors precisely to work against transformation of existing policies and systems of migration control, not least by placating and comforting those in whose name borders are erected, protected and militarized. Expressions of public grief have also become normalized to an extent, without shifting what some call a "globalization of indifference". In this talk we reflect on the relationship between public grief and political transformation based on our research on public memory and the politics of mourning in the US and Mexico. We suggest that conclusions about the potential effects of public grief and commemoration rest in part on competing visions of political transformation. Drawing on distinctions between instrumental and prefigurative politics, we examine examples of different memorials, countermemorials and collective grief projects in Mexico and the US. Through the work of memory activists in migrant shelters, community centers, and artistic interventions, we show that memory activists who create communities of mourning do not exclusively judge their work by effecting changes in laws or by holding states accountable, but by acting as if the alternative is already here, embodied by the activists' practices themselves, their everyday actions and the relationships built within these spaces. 

Associate Professor
,
University of Arizona
Co-Director, Institute for Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention and Assistant Professor of Genocide and Mass Atrocity Prevention
,
Binghamton University
Research Fellow
,
University of Konstanz, Zukunftskolleg
Associate Professor
,
Montclair State University
Professor of History & Memory Studies
,
Nottingham Trent University/Memory Studies Association
Research Associate
,
Leipzig University
 Adam Lundberg
PhD Candidate
,
Department of Human Geography, Uppsala University
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