Intersections or misdirections? Problematising crossroads of memory in the commemoration of 9/11

Bond, L. 2012. Intersections or misdirections? Problematising crossroads of memory in the commemoration of 9/11. Culture, Theory and Critique. 53 (2), pp. 111-128.

TitleIntersections or misdirections? Problematising crossroads of memory in the commemoration of 9/11
AuthorsBond, L.
Abstract

The turn towards transculturalism engenders a focus on modes of remembrance that conceptualise memory as dialogic and diverse rather than hierarchical and linear. However, this paper expresses concern that this apparent openness will lead to the presumption that all manifestations of ‘multidirectional’ or ‘cosmopolitan’ memory are ethically-oriented, according commemorative practice a transparency that is not always merited. Particularly disquieting are overly analogical memorial endeavours that suggest unproblematic equivalence between historical events, as exemplified by the reliance upon tropes inherited from Holocaust discourse in the public memorial culture of 9/11. This paper analyses the convergence of two pre-existing cultural discourses in the American public sphere after 9/11. The first relates to the ‘Americanization’ of the Holocaust in memorial culture from the early 1990s, which critics have suggested involves a transition from viewing the Holocaust as a historical event to reading it as an affirmative national parable. The second concerns the mobilisation of the Holocaust in support of U.S. military intervention in foreign policy rhetoric in the post-Cold War period. Analysing the intersection of these discourses with the narrative of American exceptionalism, I question whether the prevalence of Holocaust tropes in 9/11's memorial culture suggests a deliberate appropriation of its master narrative of loss. I argue that, in the decade since 9/11, other memorial constellations have been ignored in favour of less problematic acts of historical analogy. Ultimately, I call for greater attention to the potential consequences of applying analogical templates of remembrance without adequate self-reflexivity. I suggest that it is not always the most visible points of connection that offer the potential for ethical modes of remembrance, but the hidden histories, the forgotten memories, whose relationship to 9/11 opens the most important claims to attention.

JournalCulture, Theory and Critique
Journal citation53 (2), pp. 111-128
ISSN1473-5784
Year2012
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1080/14735784.2012.680261
Publication dates
Published2012

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