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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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Re-valuing Silence (Férdia J. Stone-Davis)

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férdia j. stone-davis

Theologian Férdia Stone-Davis argues that commemorative silence has been inflated and devalued. But, if listened to properly, silence remains a powerful means of protest and remembrance.

It has become customary to use silence as a tool for remembering those who have suffered and perished during war and situations of conflict, as a result of acts of violence or terrorism, through systemic failures such as Grenfell Tower, and as a consequence of other ostensibly unpredictable tragedies. The appropriateness of silence to such practices of commemoration is clear: words fail in such moments, and where words fail, silence falls. But what is to be made of this silence?

The inflation of commemorative silence was noted in 2008, in an article in The Independent newspaper. Speaking about Manchester United football team’s decision to hold a minute’s silence to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Munich air crash, Andy McSmith said ‘Tomorrow’s silence will be one of many held this year – some lasting a minute, and some longer – to mark events, single deaths, multiple deaths, violent deaths and natural deaths. We live in a time of silence inflation.’1 Importantly, this article not only flags the increase of commemorative silence but signals the way in which silence – through the duration allocated to it – becomes a signifier for the relative importance of the event marked. So, he observes, if the Madrid train bombs, which killed 191 people, were worth three minutes, then the terrorist attack...

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