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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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When Is the Focus on Memory Just Too Much? The Challenges of Commemoration and Cultural Memory (Marita Sturken with Niall Munro)

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marita sturken with niall munro

Marita Sturken, an expert on cultural memory, tells Niall Munro about the variety of commemorative practices in the United States and what effects the events of 9/11 and new forms of digital commemoration have had on the ways in which people think about commemoration and the value of cultural memory.

niall munro: How would you say commemorative practices have changed since you started working on cultural memory?

marita sturken: I first became interested in cultural memory when I was a graduate student in the late 1980s, and at that point I was pulled to the topic because of two innovative engagements with it in the United States: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (which opened in 1982) and the AIDS Memorial Quilt (which was begun in 1987). So my interest was sparked by the fervour of the affective responses to each and what that might mean at that moment of American culture. That was in a certain sense the beginning of what is now often called the ‘memory boom’ in the United States, Europe and Latin America in particular, during which a large number of memorials, memorial art projects, and memory museums have been built. So I could say that commemoration has changed in these years simply because it has proliferated across many very different cultural contexts and in response to very diverse kinds of events. There have been commemorations largely in response to war, state violence, genocide, and catastrophe, so...

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