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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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Lose the Dudes, Keep the Horses: On Civil War Monuments in the United States (Tony Horwitz)

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tony horwitz

American journalist and author Tony Horwitz offers an overview of the Confederate statue controversy in the United States and considers the future prospects for ‘the cult of the Confederacy’.

As you may have heard, we are having a rather monumental debate in the US about Confederate statues and symbols. First, for those who haven’t seen this commemorative landscape, I would like to convey its extent, diversity, and strangeness. There are many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of memorials and monuments to the Southern cause in every corner of the country, and they come in all shapes and forms. The rebel general Stonewall Jackson lost his arm in battle and the burial place of his amputated limb is a minor shrine. So is the grave of his horse, whose remains were removed from a museum and interred only twenty years ago. I went to that burial, and trust me it was weird.

The impulse behind this commemoration hasn’t been monolithic either. Monument building began in earnest around 1890, twenty-five years after the war’s end, when Southern women started putting up stone rebels in cemeteries and courthouse squares across the South. There was a kind of run on monuments and many of these statues were mass produced in the North. The inscriptions sanctified the Southern cause, but they were generally muted and mournful in tone.

This wasn’t true of the immense statues of Confederate leaders, most of which went up in the first decades...

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