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Intercultural Memories

Contesting Places, Spaces, and Stories


Edited By Ahmet Atay, Yea-Wen Chen and Alberto González

Collective remembering is an important way that communities name and make sense of the past. Places and stories about the past influence how communities remember the past, how they try to preserve it, or in some cases how they try to erase it. The research in this book offers key insights into how places and memories intersect with intercultural conflicts, oppressions, and struggles by which communities make sense of, deal with, and reconcile the past. The authors in this book examine fascinating stories from important sites—such as international commemorations of Korean “Comfort Women,” a film representation of the Stonewall Riots, and remembrances of the post-communist state in Albania. By utilizing various critical and cultural studies and ethnographic and narrative-based methods, each chapter examines cultural memory in intercultural encounters, everyday experiences, and identity performances that evoke collective memories of colonial pasts, immigration processes, and memories of places and spaces that are shaped by power structures and clashing ideologies. This book is essential reading for understanding the links between space/place and cultural memory, memories of nationally, and places constituted by markers of ethnicity, race, and sexuality. These readings are especially useful in courses in intercultural communication, cultural studies, international studies, and peace and conflict studies.
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8. Displaced Memorials: Commemorating the “Comfort Women” in the United States



Columbus State University

“No understanding of history is innocent,” writes critical theorist Steven Best (1995) (p. xvi). And the same can be said of memory. The differences between the Marine Corp War Memorial located in Virginia and the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. in their designs and people’s responses to them, for example, show how memorials and monuments are created out of diverse needs and desires. When visualized, collective memories tend to be “conventionalized, because the image has to be meaningful for an entire group; simplified because in order to be generally meaningful and capable of transmission, the complexity of the image must be reduced as far as possible” (Fentress & Wickham, 1992, pp. 47–48). “By creating common spaces for memory,” as James Young points out, these public memorials and monuments “propagate the illusion of common memory” (Young, 1992, p. 6). Together with annual commemorative ceremonies and shared calendars, they often work as what Marita Sturken (1997) calls “technologies of memory,” rhetorical loci around which the national identity is often produced and reproduced.

Because these public memorials require considerable resources, they are often considered as the conduits for “official” narratives about the past. Concerned about the ways in which these official memorials perform continuous oppressions of the marginalized through conventionalizing and simplifying of memories, many scholars began exploring alternative sites of remembering beyond traditional and formally dedicated memorial spaces. For example, Smith and Bergman (2010) explore Alcatraz Island as...

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