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Communicating Memory & History

Edited By Nicole Maurantonio and David W. Park

Communicating Memory & History takes as its mission the job of giving communication history its full due in the study of memory. Taking three keywords—communication, history, and memory—representing related, albeit at times hostile, fields of inquiry as its point of departure, this book asks how the interdisciplinary field of memory studies can be productively expanded through the work of communication historians. Across the chapters of this book, contributors employ methods ranging from textual analysis to reception studies to prompt larger questions about how the past can be alternately understood, contested, and circulated.

Communicating Memory & History is ideal for teaching, including case studies that elaborate different ways to approach issues in memory studies. While some foundational knowledge would be useful, it is possible to use the text without extensive knowledge of the literature. This book is of particular interest to professors, graduate students, and advanced undergraduate students of communication and media studies, as well as scholars and students in cultural studies, history, and sociology—disciplines where one finds steady consideration of issues related to communication, communication history, and memory.

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8. Presence and Absence: The Berlin Wall as Strategic Platform (Samantha Oliver)


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8. Presence and Absence: The Berlin Wall as Strategic Platform


On November 9, 2014, the sky above Berlin filled with illuminated orbs. Eight thousand white helium balloons had been installed along a 155-kilometer path throughout Berlin earlier in the week, retracing the path where the Berlin Wall once stood. This art installation essentially re-built the Berlin Wall, erected in 1961 to divide East Germany (the GDR) from West Germany at the height of the Cold War. The balloons, perched atop 3.6 meter poles (mimicking the height of the Wall), were released one by one to “symbolize the breaching of the Wall by crowds of protesters” in 1989.1 The balloons’ release marked the culmination of a weekend-long celebration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Throughout the weekend, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world flocked to Berlin to partake in a variety of activities, including the dedication of a new memorial, free outdoor concerts and musical performances, speeches, art installations, and a “citizen’s party” at Brandenburg gate, the site of the initial breach of the Wall 25 years earlier.

In addition to bringing thousands of revelers to the streets, these anniversary celebrations also brought politicians to the podium. Political leaders from around the world delivered remarks to commemorate this momentous occasion. These remarks took many forms, including public addresses and statements made at events in Berlin, solicited opinions to...

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