“MATTER IS THE MINIMUM”: Reading Washington, DC’s BLM Memorial Fence

  In the early evening of Monday, 1 June 2020, following a weekend of national protests against the extra-judicial killings of Black people by the police, US federal troops aggressively moved on demonstrators outside the White House in Washington, DC.[1] Using flashbangs and chemical weapons, the US military forced demonstrators… Continue reading

The Toppling of Þorfinnur: Vandalism as Dialogue and Direct Action

  Figure 1. Head of Þorfinnur Karlsefni, 2018 Source: CBS Philly   In the early hours of Oct 2nd, 2018, unidentified parties beheaded a one-hundred-year-old bronze sculpture of the Norse explorer Þorfinnur Karlsefni and hurled it into the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. Weighing thousands of pounds and standing more than… Continue reading

Sound, The Second-Line, and the Politics of Post-Katrina Memory

In January of 2006, thousands of displaced New Orleanians returned to their sunken city from a variety of locales. They came from as close as Baton Rouge and as far as Portland, Oregon. Following a strange diaspora, an extension of forced exile caused by inadequate and disorganized evacuation plans sponsored… Continue reading

“Do Not Forget your Dying King”: Oliver Stone’s JFK and Popular Memory

John F. Kennedy Tribute Memorial, Fort-Worth, Texas   “Do not forget your dying king,” District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) pleads to the jury at the end Oliver Stone’s JFK, reinforcing the Camelot aura long associated with President John F. Kennedy. Stone’s interpretation of Garrison’s efforts to convict a businessman… Continue reading

The Exhibit That Bombed: The Enola Gay Controversy and Contested Memory

In March 1994, a heated argument erupted over a planned exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. The exhibit, scheduled to open in the spring of 1995, the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, would focus on the legacy of the… Continue reading

‘You will find us still in cages’: Re-narrativizing African American History at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice

The Equal Justice Initiative’s (EJI) National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, re-dramatizes America’s national narrative by leading visitors on a journey not from slavery to freedom but from slavery to mass incarceration. Rather than focusing on the ‘feel-good story’ of ‘courageous civil rights activists’, writes EJI founder… Continue reading

Memory as Superpower in Ta-Nehisi Coates’s The Water Dancer

Acclaimed author and essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates remarked in an interview that “much of the country’s history is premised on forgetting, not remembering certain things.” [i] His statement refers to the repression of the slave past and its erasure from American narratives of freedom and progress. In his debut novel, The Water… Continue reading

‘The Place, The Circumstances, The Remembrance’: The Performative Nature of Irish-American Civil War Memory and Memorialisation

In one of 2020’s notable moments, this November saw centenary commemorations at Westminster Abbey’s Unknown Warrior grave. Consecrated through the burial of an unknown British serviceman from World War One on 11 November 1920, the site has also come to represent the war dead of subsequent conflicts. In America, the… Continue reading

Memorials and Popular Memory Special Series

The past four years have highlighted the influence of memorials and popular memory in American culture. From the toppling of Confederate statues to the decolonisation of school curricula, many Americans have fought to establish a more inclusive and nuanced memorial landscape. This series illustrates how widely “memory” is both interpreted… Continue reading