Memory and the Impact of Political Transformation in Public Space

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Memory and the Impact of Political Transformation in Public Space explores the effects of major upheavals—wars, decolonization, and other social and economic changes—on the ways in which public histories are presented around the world. Examining issues related to public memory in twelve countries, the histories collected here cut across political, cultural, and geographic divisions. At the same time, by revealing recurring themes and concerns, they show how basic issues of history and memory transcend specific sites and moments in time. A number of the essays look at contests over public memory following two major political transformations: the wave of liberation from colonial rule in much of Africa, Asia, and Central and South America during the second half of the twentieth century and the reorganization of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet bloc beginning in the late 1980s.

This collection expands the scope of what is considered public history by pointing to silences and absences that are as telling as museums and memorials. Contributors remind us that for every monument that is erected, others—including one celebrating Sri Lanka’s independence and another honoring the Unknown Russian Soldier of World War II—remain on the drawing board. While some sites seem woefully underserved by a lack of public memorials—as do post–Pinochet Chile and post–civil war El Salvador—others run the risk of diluting meaning through overexposure, as may be happening with Israel’s Masada. Essayists examine public history as it is conveyed not only in marble and stone but also through cityscapes and performances such as popular songs and parades.

James Carter
John Czaplicka
Kanishka Goonewardena
Lisa Maya Knauer
Anna Krylova
Teresa Meade
Bill Nasson
Mary Nolan
Cynthia Paces
Andrew Ross
Daniel Seltz
T. M. Scruggs
Irina Carlota Silber
Daniel J. Walkowitz
Yael Zerubavel

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This outstanding collection of essays pushes the boundaries of our understanding of how memory is a powerful force in political transformations around the world. Informed by theoretical writings, but not weighed down by them, the authors tell compelling stories of struggles over memory in a wide range of places. This volume should be read and pondered not only by those thinking and writing about how societies remember but also by those planners and architects and politicians who are rushing to memorialize our own traumatic events.”—Max Page, author of The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900–1940

“When issues of history and memory are publicly controversial, the controversy almost always takes a highly particular contextual form. Striking in its combination of intellectual depth and refreshingly concrete detail, this volume’s unique contribution is to invite reflection on how quite different situations speak to each other, suggesting more general insights that transcend particular contexts.”—Michael Frisch, author of Portraits in Steel

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822333647
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Series: Radical Perspectives Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel J. Walkowitz is Director of College Honors and Professor of History and Metropolitan Studies at New York University.

Lisa Maya Knauer is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African/African-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

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Read an Excerpt

Memory and the impact of political transformation in public space

By Daniel J. Walkowitz

Duke University Press

ISBN: 0-8223-3364-3

Chapter One


Scotland is once again a blip on the radar screen of the "international community." Its fledgling parliament is regularly cited as a regional symptom of new global order, good or bad, depending on the speaker's viewpoint. There is even a major media spectacle to furnish these opinions with strong visuals-the Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart, which brought the feats of William Wallace, patriot hero of the medieval Wars of Independence, to a worldwide audience. Indeed, casual consumers of the buzz surrounding the film could hardly be faulted for believing that the country's nationalist revival has had something to do with the rediscovery of an ancient warrior tradition.

Understandably, this perception will be most whimsical to those of us who grew up with William Wallace in our backyard-in the form of the massive monument to his memory that dominates the lower Forth Valley. Since I was weaned in the shadow of the Wallace Monument before the resurgence of Scottish nationalism toward the end of the 1960s, I can recall a time when the famous memorial was more a fact of nature-a stark feature of the landscape-than a resonant political symbol. Built in the 1860s in the Scottish baronial style to evoke a medieval tower castle, and topped by a representation ofthe Crown Royal of Scotland, it juts high over the Forth Valley like some jumbo joystick, jammed forever in gear and encrusted with the light rime of ages (see fig. 1). Its thirty thousand tons of stone are quarried from its volcanic seat, the Abbey Craig, whose dramatic shape had been sculpted by the retreat of a glacial ice sheet. As a result the monument resembles an outcropping of the craig itself, rising to a height of 220 feet and towering 530 feet above the carselands, once a vast peat moss known as the Sea of Scotland and more recently the home of the great coalfields of the nation's central industrial belt.

As a child I was understandably impressed by the monument's custody of William Wallace's mighty sixty-six-inch broadsword, a relic with all the incantatory power of Excalibur itself. But what caught my fancy more was the knowledge that the valley where I lived had once been an ocean floor and that the bones of a seventy-foot great whale had been found on the northern slopes of the Abbey Craig in the early nineteenth century (fig. 2). Geologic history took precedence over human history.

In retrospect this is a peculiar confession, since I lived in a landscape peppered with some of the more climactic events in regional history. From the monument's height you can look across at Dumyat, an Iron Age dun fort of the Maeatae Picts, on the ramparts of the defiant Ochil Hills, the most southerly of the geological dividers of the Highlands from the Lowlands. Directly below is Airthrey Park, site of the 843 battle in which Kenneth McAlpin defeated the Picts and formed a united Scotland for the first time. In an oxbow of the Forth at the foot of the craig are the twelfth-century ruins of Cambuskenneth Abbey, where Robert the Bruce convened his first Parliament and where James III and his queen are buried. And on a dandy southerly bluv sits Stirling Castle, the favorite fifteenth-and sixteenth-century residence of the Stuart kings and the so-called cockpit of Scotland, on account of its command over the most easterly point at which the river could be forded. You can see also the ruins of Stirling's old jail, in front of which Andrew Hardie and John Baird, Radical leaders of a republican uprising in 1820, were executed by dragoons who drew taunts of "Murder!" from the semimutinous crowd in attendance. Directly below and on the horizon are the sites of the three primary battles of the Wars of Independence-Stirling Bridge (1297), Falkirk (1298), and Bannockburn (1314)-and, over in the Ochils, the heather-carpeted field of Sherivmuir, where the Jacobites suffered a crushing defeat in the 1745 uprising.

These are all sites of romantic history, much prized by the modern tourist industry, yet they had little hold over me as a child. In large part this had something to do with the strange death of Scottish history itself. For one thing I was never taught any of it at school. In the 1960s and 1970s the history that was deemed most important for us to know and learn was the reformist growth of the British state in the nineteenth century, and, as far as Europe was concerned, the causes and campaigns of the two world wars seemed to be paramount. From the Whig, and unionist, view of the British experience, Scottish history ended with the Treaty of Union in 1707, so in my state school there was no curricular attention to post-Union events, with the exception, perhaps, of a cursory account of the Jacobite threat to the Hanover throne. Since we were viewed, pedagogically, as compulsive moderns, there was precious little mention of early modern history in any form. That has now changed, as a result of the nationalist renaissance, and indeed the new Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh immerses the visitor fully in the life of the pre-Union nation.

Depending on your perspective, the strange death of Scottish history could have been either the hapless by-product of the steady Anglicization of the national education system (analyzed by George Davie in The Democratic Intellect, his classic study of the nineteenth century) or the enlightened result of the nation's "improvement" through full participation in the affairs of the multinational British state. Today, these two perspectives are much more clear-cut and mutually opposed than they once were. For much of the period of the Union (which may eventually come to be seen as a mere interregnum), it was customary to be both nationalist and assimilationist, dedicated, on the one hand, to the preservation of cultural identity and the traditional estates of civil society-legal, educational, religious- while fully allied, on the other, with the corporatist thrust of industry and Empire. These were the discrepant loyalties that secured a dual identity for the stateless nation-allowing for a high degree of autonomy while enjoying the dividends of its junior partnership in imperial affairs directed by Westminster. Freed from the stressful demands of high state politics, Scots elites had cultivated the appearance and institutional affect of self-rule, while banking on the Union's gilt-edged name. Was this balancing act as surreal as it sounds? A glance back at the building of the monument gives us some insight into the peculiar condition of nonnationalist nationalism that ensured that Scottish sovereignty after 1707 was kept "undead," in Tom Nairn's phrase, and temporarily confined to a rather shallow grave.


By the first decades of the nineteenth century, the spirits of Ossian were no longer walking the glens, and a cult of William Wallace sprang up, with poems, songs, and busts to honor his memory, alongside that of Robert Burns, the national bard, and Walter Scott, the ace unionist nationalist (fig. 4). Statues of Wallace were erected in Dryburgh, Lanark, Falkirk, Aberdeen, and other sites, and there was much sentiment for a national monument, some of it emanating from radical quarters. In 1832, for example, after the passing of the Reform Act, a memorial was erected to those 1820 Radical martyrs who had been beheaded in Stirling and Glasgow. At the ceremony, the historian Peter McKenzie raised a toast to a nationalist Wallace that was a clear riposte to the only recently deceased Scott: "I hope that the monument now erected would have the effect of shaming Scotsmen, if nothing else will do, into the erection of a monument to that first and greatest of Scotland's patriots. See the thousands of pounds they are now collecting for a monument to Sir Walter Scott, and will they, after this, basely forget Sir William Wallace?" A more conservative case for a monument was expressed in an article in the North British Review. The writer contended that Wallace was "a simple Saxon recusant against Norman supremacy, who fell to be ranked with such English heroes as the bold outlaws of Sherwood Forest." Such comments, aimed at the fragile attempt to forge a "North British" consensus in place of the less conciliatory Caledonian one, were carefully worded, for they walked a very fine line.

Letters began to appear in a range of newspapers, Whig and Tory, arguing the case for a national monument. Charles Rogers, chaplain to Stirling Castle, and the inspiration for a rash of monument-building in the region, took the lead in choosing the Abbey Craig site and formed a committee to raise subscriptions. An open air meeting was called for Bannockburn Day (June 24, 1856) to inaugurate the campaign.

On that day a grand procession was led from Stirling Castle to the King's Park, with every sector of polite society represented-from the Guilds and Masons to the Highland regiments, parliamentary personages, lord-lieutenants of counties, officials from municipalities, country gentlemen, clergymen, and the peerage-and with a vast, exuberant crowd in attendance. An editorial in the Stirling Observer reported: "No Scotchman could be indifferent to the anticipated proceedings.... The greatest excitement prevailed and the greatest anxiety was manifested to lend eclat to a demonstration that was deemed national and patriotic." All-important here was the choice conjunction of "national and patriotic," for it goes to the heart of the paradox of unionist nationalist sentiment. Speaking as the committee president, the Earl of Elgin described the proposed tribute to Wallace as a "tardy honor," and he drew a lesson in politics from his example by warning "how little a nation gains from forcing foreign institutions, foreign laws, and a foreign religion upon a reluctant and high-spirited people." The comparison with Irish affairs was most relevant, though the earl also mentioned the example of the American colonies. These comments served as a prologue to celebrating the resolute skills of the Scots in having engineered "an intimate union with a people more wealthy and numerous than themselves without sacrificing one jot of their national independence-these results are due to this struggle, which commenced on the plains of Stirling, and was consummated on the field of Bannockburn." Elgin's tribute was a typical, if locally shrewd, commentary on the negotiated settlement of the Union; the canny Scots had gotten a good deal, and they could somehow thank Wallace for putting them in a position from which to negotiate. "Degenerate nations fall," the earl sagely concluded, while "patriotic ones persist."

Subscription lists were opened in every town in the United Kingdom, as well as in India, North America, and Australia. As subscribers pitched in from near and far, the Stirling Observer noted dryly that "the amount of their subscription increased in exact ratio to their distance from the land of their sires." Five years later, an even greater crowd gathered for the laying of the foundation stone, resulting in a heady infusion of the carnivalesque into the official pomp and circumstance. "The streets," the Observer again noted, "were swarming with people whose 'get up' would have made an anchorite smile." Coloring the motley scene was "an infinite variety of sashes, cockades, flags, and mystic emblems of the brethren of the 'mystic tie.'" A local observer memorialized the event:

From early morning, trains arrived from all parts. 40 bands of music and pipers innumerable discoursed martial and patriotic airs, "Scots Wha Hae," "God Save the Queen," and the "Mason's Anthem" being the favorites. Various estimates were made of the numbers present, one being placed as high as one hundred thousand, the procession itself extending fully two miles. Conspicuous in the line were 30 companies of Volunteers representing as many regiments ... the various Artillery and Rifle Volunteers, Curling Clubs, Gardeners Lodges, and Oddfellows and St. Crispin Lodges ... the ancient society of Omnium Gatherum, the master and pupils of Allan's and Cunningham' Mortifications, the Stirling Cadet Corps, the Seven Incorporated Trades, the Convener Court, the Guildry Officer carrying the Stirling Jug, the members of the Guildry, the Town Officials, the Town Chamberlain bearing on a silver cushion the silver key of the burgh.

The last time, it was noted, that so many men in uniform had gathered was for the Battle of Bannockburn itself. On this occasion it was the Reverend Rogers who took the opportunity to stress the continuity between Wallace's example and the achievements of the Union. "Wallace was responsible," he proclaimed, "for placing a new dynasty on the English throne, and under Providence was the means of uniting these kingdoms together on equal terms and with equal rights." The Stirling Observer editorial (June 27, 1861) struck a more nationalist chord, while cautioning against anti-English sentiment: "Let every Scotsman honor Wallace in his own way without running down his neighbor, merely for expressing the same sentiments of love and veneration in a different manner from himself." Readers were further encouraged to heed not "the scoffs and jeers of The Times and other Cockney periodicals, and give some color to their ridiculous assertion that our nationality is only a species of provincialism."

The tension between expressions of national self-regard and anti-Union sentiment was clearly evident in this and other newspaper reports. Given the massive turnout, and the emotional zeal triggered by the Monument Movement, this kind of thing could easily get out of hand, and would need to be tightly managed, in the press and elsewhere. By the time the monument was opened in 1869, the hue and cry had dampened considerably (in the customary Scottish manner), the committee was in debt, and the ceremony to hand the building over to the stewardship of the Stirling Town Council was brief and officious, with no provision at all for a large public demonstration. Concerns about the political exploitation of the monument were publicly aired. A typical editorial (in the Courant, September 15, 1869) cautioned that the monument should not be a "peg [on which] to hang 'patriotic' nonsense, Scotch provincialism, or worse 'seedy Radicalism.'" Monuments can "galvanize dead patriotisms, and stir up animosities which have been laid for centuries." The Scotsman was more snivy (September 21, 1869), maligning Rogers as a "national incubus" whose "monumental craze" will lead to such an "eruption" of building that "nobody's ancestors are safe from being crucified in stone and lime." Monumentalism, it preached, was a "mode of exhibiting the vanity of the living at the expense of the dead," and the tribute to Wallace was "a piece of monstrous folly.... One of the fairest craigs in Scotland has been disfigured by a vulgar and meaningless mass."

Rogers, who seems to have drawn fire from all sides, had earlier resigned from the committee. His most valiant feat, in his own eyes, had been to save the monument from a design that would certainly have stirred up animosities. The committee had initially chosen an entry that displayed a Scottish lion (representing liberty) vanquishing an English monster (representing tyranny) "with serpent legs and jaws horribly distended." Rogers's evorts to kill the design engaged him in a long-running dispute with the Association for the Vindication for Scottish Rights, which had backed the monster slayer. The association was one of the groups that sprang up in the 1850s to protest creeping Anglicization, most visible in the English aristocratic patronage (led by Victoria herself ) of the rural moors, estates, and rivers. Anglicization only went so far down the social order, yet there was little reason, as historian Christopher Harvie notes, for any person of influence, ambition, or wealth to support nationalist reforms being pushed by fringe eccentrics like the Scottish Rights agitators. Devotions to identity were simply not lucrative enough to draw men on the make away from the fast revenue of Empire.

Because of its natural advantages-coal and black-band ironstone- Scotland's Victorian economic miracle had established itself in the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. At home and in the colonies a combination of entrepreneurial gusto and engineering innovation made Scotland the "Workshop of the Empire." Its engineering, textiles, coal, iron, processing, agriculture, commerce, and shipping were mainstays of British imperial growth until 1914. To a country well primed for emigration, the empire provided a steady stream of professional opportunities for the surplus of intellectuals trained in Scottish universities, whether as administrators, physicians, engineers, soldiers, missionaries, or suppliers of essential imperial commodities like opium.


Excerpted from Memory and the impact of political transformation in public space by Daniel J. Walkowitz Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Wallace's monument and the resumption of Scotland 21
The fall and rise of Prague's Marian column 47
Aborted identity : the commission and omission of a monument to the nation, Sri Lanka, circa 1989 65
Dancing on the graves of the dead : building a World War II memorial in post-Soviet Russia 83
The politics of memory in the Bonn and Berlin Republics 105
Remembering the war and the atomic bombs : new museums, new approaches 127
Touring Harbin's pasts 149
The palace ruins and putting the lithuanian nation into place : historical stagings in Vilnius 167
Holding the Junta accountable : Chile's "sitios de memoria" and the history of torture, disappearance, and death 191
Commemorating the past in postwar El Salvador 211
The politics of remembrance and the consumption of space : Masada in Israeli memory 233
Music, memory, and the politics of erasure in Nicaragua 255
Commemorating the Anglo-Boer war in postapartheid South Africa 277
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