As a result of recent “Black Lives Mater” protests, statues of historical figures have come under scrutiny. In this work, I look into monuments, their purpose, effect and our emotional links to them. From that starting point I explore a broader context of memory scapes, where monuments are one of many objects that represent, store, communicate memories.
Key points drawn from my readings are summarized below:
- Definition: Monument definition:
- they commemorate past events, people, ideas and ideals
- “Traditionally, commemoration was mainly about the celebration of heroes, martyrs, and glorious events that exuded grandeur and meant to evoke veneration. To this category belonged war memorials, statues of politicians, and monuments to generals and military victories that cast the national past in a heroic mold.” 
- the World Heritage Convention includes both cultural and natural heritage. They include cities, architecture, landscapes, marine environments.
- more broadly they are memory scapes
- Purpose: What is the purpose of a memorial / monument / narrative?
- Is it to align the people with a single, national / cultural narrative; is it to represent a memory and all its warts [the divergent perspective on what that memory is]; is it to serve some broader strategic / political purpose; is it to define a new narrative and escape the old; is it to bolster the position / legitimacy of the state?
- We might even ask “what scope is a narrative to cover?” Is it national, cultural, regional, municipal, …
- Authenticity / Truth: The physicality of the monument lends a sense of authenticity / truth to the narrative
- anything memorialized is [becomes] important [the existence of the monument in itself implies importance]
- an association with printed materials, an information centre, guides, etc. helps us understand / interpret
- Link to Past: Monuments keep our past in the present.
- A monument is an actualization of the past.
- the history they represent links generations together
- it defines (establishes) the common / official narrative (it is supposed to express the common history)
- it is supposed to bring together the community
- alignment + bonding
- Embodies a Narrative:
- Traditionally monuments convey the official narrative about our past
- A monument can be source of information and/or enlightenment to inform people of unknown / hidden past events
- Monuments may be used as a propaganda tool
- A monument could represent something we want to believe in, rather than what is really the truth
- They can become a national brand: the “American Dream”; the “West”
- Monuments, like memory, are socially constructed
- The narrative presented by a monument is often incomplete, some things are purposely ignored or simplified away
- Traditionally, monuments intend to highlight the progressive narrative  and in doing so they leave the darker side, the injustices unsaid. By ignoring the injustices of the past, communities permit them to continue into the present and without action, into the future. While adding a plaque that informs us of the missing part of the story is a good first step, without action to curtail the injustices that continue we have simply a “feel good” exercise.
- unless there is action as such monuments are about both remembering and forgetting
- Source of Debate: The monument could become a locus of debate, review, reassessment
- as social norms change, but with the monument anchored in a past narrative a past set of “norms”, it becomes out of touch and thus a source of debate
- A monument allows us to see how people thought about things in the past, how we have changed, may be for the better (past norms vs. current norms)
- Participation in the Debate: Who do we let contribute to the debate over our norms
- traditionally the norms or narrative represented in a monument where directed by the sponsors (government, elites, …)
- the push now is for broader participation (e.g., community-based art) that seeks a broader more inclusive narrative
- The Failure to Resolve: “Replacement and vandalism figure prominently in periods of discontinuity in the political history of societies and regimes” 
- or put another way, unresolved narrative expressed through monuments are vandalized; being unable to resolve issues peacefully results in violence.
- the global response / reaction to the many monuments that fail to expose the “darker side” indicates how widespread are the issues of subjugation and suppression and to blame it on a single cause [political system, leader, economy, elites] is unrealistic.
- The removal of a monument, delegitimizes the narrative for which it stood. It recasts from authoritative / true; it discredits. It begins the process of “forgetting”
- Araujo, Ana Lucia. Toppling monuments is a global movement. And it works. Washington Post
- Foote, Kenneth E., Azaryahu, Maoz. Toward a geography of memory: geographic dimensions of public memory and commemoration
- Friedlander, Lee. The American Monument
- Hasian, Marouf and Paliewicz, Nicholas. Atlantic Journal of Communication The national memorial for peace and justice, dark tourist argumentation, and civil rights memoryscapes
- ICOMOS. The 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention: Recognising challenges for the future
- Kennicott, Philip. Mount Rushmore is colossal kitsch, perfect for a populist spectacle, Washington Post
- Kinossian, Nadir. City as Haunted Landscapes
- Koudelka, Josef. Ruins,
- Lachemi, Mohmed. Message from President Lachemi about weekend protests
- Ochman, Ewa. Post-communist Poland – Contested Pasts and Future Identities (London and New York: Routledge, 2013)
- Pinson, Stephen. Monumental Journey: The Daguerreotypes of Girault de Prangey
- Smith, Laurajane. Class, heritage and the negotiation of place
- Waldman, Paul. Why Donald Trump is standing up for the Confederacy, Washington Post
- Weiner, Andrew S. Memory Under Reconstruction: Politics and Event in Wirtschaftswunder West Germany
- Wikipedia. Monument
Thought and Observations:
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