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On Commemoration

Global Reflections upon Remembering War

Edited By Catherine Gilbert, Kate McLoughlin and Niall Munro

How, in the twenty-first century, can we do commemoration better? In particular, how can commemoration contribute to post-war reconciliation and reconstruction? In this book, a global roster of distinguished writers, artists, musicians, religious leaders, military veterans and scholars debate these questions and ponder the future of commemoration. They include the world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz, the award-winning novelists Aminatta Forna and Rachel Seiffert, and the human rights lawyer and Gifford Baillie Prize-winner Philippe Sands. Polemics and reflections together with poetry and creative prose movingly illuminate a subject that speaks to our common humanity.

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Foreword (John, Lord Alderdice)


john, lord alderdice

The spate of centenaries of First World War events, and the anniversaries of other major violent conflicts of the past century, may have tempted you to glaze over when the subject of commemoration is raised. Maybe you have regarded it as a relatively straightforward matter of individuals or communities calling to mind experiences of the past by way of celebration of chosen victories, or in the hope that recalling sacrifices and trauma may enable us to find a way of ensuring that we do not have to repeat them. This book recounts a journey into the subject in much greater depth and variety during a year of exploration at Oxford.

As the last survivors of those terrible events of 100 years ago slip into history, we may rightly wonder for whom we engage in such commemorations, and why. In the early and even medium term it may have been assumed that it would contribute to post-war reconstruction and reconciliation. Was this really the case, and can it possibly mean the same thing as time goes on and later generations, who never directly experienced the conflict, participate in commemorations? We now understand that psychological time and chronological time do not have similar schedules. Our experience in Northern Ireland, in the Balkans and in many other places has helped us to learn that what is past for outsiders may remain very current for those who live in communities that have experienced trauma and violent conflict....

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