Fear and loathing in monuments: Rethinking the politics and practices of monumentality and monumentalization

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Monuments—and the function and import of monumentality and practices of monumentalization—are currently under incredible scrutiny. Should historical statues of racist figures and pasts be left as they are or removed and destroyed? Should they be rehomed in statue parks intended as final resting places for disgraced statues? Or should they be left but with additional monuments and memorials added to their surroundings to provide further context? At the root of these debates is a fundamental inquiry about not just what monuments are but, more importantly, what monuments are intended to do for and within a body politic. In scholarly dialogue with Doss, Santino, Savage, Young, and others, I assert that we need to reorient and expand our thinking about monuments. I argue that monuments function as speech acts, and although they rarely speak for an entire body politic, monuments play a critical role in shaping historical narratives and cultural reckoning with racist, brutally violent pasts and their lived afterlives. Moreover, while in many respects backward-facing, monuments are also profoundly future-facing in the values and narratives they symbolize and articulate and the kinds of spaces and community practices they have the potential to cultivate. I analyze two different monument projects: Aida Šehović’s transnational nomadic monument to the Srebrenica genocide, ŠTO TE NEMA, and Landmarked, Ada Pinkston’s embodied replacement and reimagining of spaces where Confederate and slavery monuments used to be in the Eastern United States. These monument projects, I argue, challenge us to revisit the politics and practices of monumentality and monumentalization in relation to unworked-through racist pasts and, in this incredible moment of reckoning and crisis, suggest new possibilities for how we understand—and cultivate—monuments moving forward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1143-1158
Number of pages16
JournalMemory Studies
Volume14
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Bosnia
  • Confederate monuments
  • memory
  • memory sites
  • monuments
  • performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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