Mapping Memory at Transnational Intersections:
Affective Politics and Geopolitical Interventions into Cultural Remembrance
Call for Papers
American Association of Geographers, Annual Meeting
Washington, D.C. April 3-7, 2019
Dr Jacque Micieli-Voutsinas, Clark University
Dr Danielle Drozdzewski, Stockholm University
The session is sponsored by the Cultural Geography Specialty Group
In her seminal text, Trauma and the Memory of Politics, Jenny Edkins reasserts the centrality of trauma and memory to contemporary processes of state-making and political community:
[T]he production of the self and the state…takes place at the traumatic intersection between peace and war, inside and out… Forms of statehood in contemporary society, as forms of political community, are themselves produced and reproduced through social practices, including practices of trauma and memory (Edkins 2003: 10-11).
Trauma, according to Edkins, constitutes a rupture between the state and self as the basis of political community. As Bell (2006: 10) concurs, “discourses of state authority and legitimacy are called into question” during moments of catastrophe, “and a window for re-inscribing new understandings of the world emerges, albeit briefly.” Consequently, how traumatic events are remembered, if they are remembered at all, plays a significant role in shaping individual and collective identities and reestablishing—or disrupting— post-disaster political orders.
As recent literature on collective memory and international relations expands (Bell 2006; Auchter 2014; Resende and Budryte 2014, amongst others), the role and usefulness of memory, especially memory of trauma, to the State, intensifies under modernity. The symbolic power of traumatic memory as a catalyst of modern-day political community garners strength through the generation of “affective bonds” and “a sense of belonging to the nation. As Auchter (2014:8) reminds us, “Memory constructs our identity, it has the power of naming, of legitimizing. Memory has the ability to create divisions by hardening political identities and the boundaries between them”, real or perceived.
Offering ‘official’ accounts of national pasts and pastimes, memorials and museums safeguard collective memory. These memorial landscapes, and the affective powers they generate, reveal the symbolic power of traumatic memory as (re)productions and performances, “which engenders obligations and loyalty to the ‘imagined’” national community (Bell 2006: 5, citing Anderson 1991). Here, collective belonging is motivated “by moral considerations and draws ties to issues in contemporary society in a way that is uncommon in standard museum presentations of history” (Williams 2007: 21). Transforming lived experiences into cultural memory and eventual histories, museum objects, images, and spaces are vital to the production of historical “authenticity and evidence” (Williams 2007: 21), where selected items are chosen for display to construct “emotionally invested narratives of the past” in hopes of effecting socio-political change in the immediate present (Arnold-de Simine 2013:19). As such, museums, memorials, and commemorative practices have been figured in the institutional cultural (re)negotiations, denoting of the limits of political community, at home and abroad.
The politics of cultural memory, place-making, and identity are dynamically mediated and hashed out in the space and time of the affective encounter.
Dr Danielle Drozdzewski
Senior Lecturer in Human Geography
Department of Human Geography
Svanta Arrhenius road 8