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Silence, Screen, and Spectacle

Silence, Screen, and Spectacle: Rethinking Social Memory in the Age of Information

Lindsey A. Freeman
Benjamin Nienass
Rachel Daniell
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 254
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  • Book Info
    Silence, Screen, and Spectacle
    Book Description:

    In an age of information and new media the relationships between remembering and forgetting have changed. This volume addresses the tension between loud and often spectacular histories and those forgotten pasts we strain to hear. Employing social and cultural analysis, the essays within examine mnemonic technologies both new and old, and cover subjects as diverse as U.S. internment camps for Japanese Americans in WWII, the Canadian Indian Residential School system, Israeli memorial videos, and thedesaparecidosin Argentina. Through these cases, the contributors argue for a re-interpretation of Guy Debord's notion of the spectacle as a conceptual apparatus through which to examine the contemporary landscape of social memory, arguing that the concept of spectacle might be developed in an age seen as dissatisfied with the present, nervous about the future, and obsessed with the past. Perhaps now "spectacle" can be thought of not as a tool of distraction employed solely by hegemonic powers, but instead as a device used to answer Walter Benjamin's plea to "explode the continuum of history" and bring our attention to now-time.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-281-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction. Rethinking Social Memory in the Age of Information
    (pp. 1-14)
    Lindsey A. Freeman, Benjamin Nienass and Rachel Daniell

    The clamor of the past can be almost deafening: it preoccupies us through speech, texts, screens, spaces, and commemorative spectacles; it makes demands on us to settle scores, uncover the “truth,” and search for justice; it begs for enshrinement in museums and memorials; and it shapes our understanding of the present and the future. However noisy and ceaseless the demands of memory and of the past may seem, in every act of remembering there is something silenced, suppressed, or forgotten. Memory’s inherent selectivity means that for every narrative, representation, image, or sound evoking the past, there are others that have...

  6. Part I. Spectacular Memory:: Memory and Appearance in the Age of Information

    • Chapter 1 Haunted by the Spectre of Communism: Spectacle and Silence in Hungary’s House of Terror
      (pp. 17-37)
      Amy Sodaro

      TheTerrorhaza,or House of Terror, opened in 2002 in what was once an apartment building on one of Budapest’s most beautiful avenues. Its location, 60 Andrassy Boulevard, is one loaded with meaning and memory: the building was taken over in 1944 by the Arrow Cross, Hungary’s National Socialist movement, which deemed it the “House of Loyalty” and used it as its headquarters and prison; after 1945, the Hungarian communist secret police took control of the building and used it until 1963. The renovated building now houses a spectacular, ultramodern memorial museum that is meant to tell the story of...

    • Chapter 2 Making Visible: Reflexive Narratives at the Manzanar U.S. National Historic Site
      (pp. 38-58)
      Rachel Daniell

      Perhaps the last book one would expect to fi nd at the bookstore of a U.S. National Historic Site is one that chronicles gross historical inaccuracies and pro-government propaganda at official sites of memory. But just such a book—Lies Across America: What Our National Historic Sites Get Wrongby James Loewen—is not only available in the bookstore at the Manzanar National Historic Site in Owens Valley, California, it is positioned prominently, face out on the central display shelf, featured alongside Ansel Adams’s National Park photographs.¹ On a recent visit, as I passed through Manzanar’s bookstore and into the...

    • Chapter 3 The Everyday as Spectacle: Archival Imagery and the Work of Reconciliation in Canada
      (pp. 59-74)
      Naomi Angel

      On October 15, 2009, the Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean, participated in a truth and reconciliation event in Ottawa. The event marked a new beginning for the beleaguered Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (IRS TRC). Established in 2008, the commission had already experienced the resignation of the first three commissioners. Having regrouped one year later with three new commissioners, this event marked a fresh start in addressing the Indian Residential School (IRS) system in Canada. In brief, the IRS system took Aboriginal children away from their families, often forcibly, and placed them in church and state-run schools....

  7. Part II. Screening Absence:: New Technology, Affect, and Memory

    • Chapter 4 Viral Affiliations: Facebook, Queer Kinship, and the Memory of the Disappeared in Contemporary Argentina
      (pp. 77-94)
      Cecilia Sosa

      On March 24, 2010, the anniversary of the 1976 military coup in Argentina, a virtual campaign on Facebook accompanied the traditional demonstrations in the major cities of the country. The campaign involved having participants remove the pictures from their Facebook profiles, leaving the space empty as a sign of commemoration and resistance in the name of the “disappeared”—that infamous category that accounts for victims of the 1976–1983 dictatorship. The Facebook action generated high levels of participation, and, during the days before and after the anniversary, it was possible to witness a community offacelessprofiles supporting, from digital...

    • Chapter 5 Learning by Heart: Humming, Singing, Memorizing in Israeli Memorial Videos
      (pp. 95-117)
      Laliv Melamed

      In the sequence that endsAlways Ascending(Hemri La’Ad,Chen Shelach, 2008), a film produced by the Shalev family in memory of their son, Nissan Shalev, the well-known Israeli singer Leah Shabat sits in the family living room with her guitar. At this point we understand that the series of guitar chords heard throughout the film were played by her, and here they are ultimately joined and attuned to a riff that opens one of her most famous songs,Always Be Waiting for You. Shalev’s sisters sit next to her and tell her that a day before the funeral they...

    • Chapter 6 Arcade Mode: Remembering, Revisiting, and Replaying the American Video Arcade
      (pp. 118-134)
      Samuel Tobin

      What is “vital,” what Sudnow saw almost thirty years ago, was video game play, in that case in the arcade. That vital body, its posture, its poise and pose returns, is remembered and re-created at the level of bodies, blips, games, gestures, etiquette and tensions by and in current mobile video game play practices. A Nintendo DS handheld player stands, feet apart and planted; arms bent at near right angles and held out at gut level; hands working in rhythm with each other; face illuminated by a soft glow. This posture of play is deployed in two game spaces: that...

  8. Part III. Silence and Memory:: Erasures, Storytelling, and Kitsch

    • Chapter 7 Remembering Forgetting: A Monument to Erasure at the University of North Carolina
      (pp. 137-162)
      Timothy J. McMillan

      In 2001, I began teaching a first-year seminar titled “Defining Blackness.” My journey with that class and its descendants is intertwined with my relationship with the memorial landscape, concrete and virtual, of the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In its initial year, the class decided to take as its focus the idea of how blackness, specifically American blackness, might mediate and alter how people experience the physical campus. In class discussions we surmised that there is a segregation of knowledge and of perception that might become manifest by examining the memorial landscape and that there...

    • Chapter 8 The Power of Conflicting Memories in European Transnational Social Movements
      (pp. 163-182)
      Nicole Doerr

      This chapter explores collective memory as a source of democratic conflicts in social movements, with the aim of better understanding the relationship between storytelling and silences in emerging transnational discursive public spheres. When telling alternative stories on the Internet and in transnational protest summits, activists publicize memories excluded from national history books (Assmann and Conrad 2010: 2; see also Olick et al. 2011: 430). However, the publicizing of suppressed memories and the claims for apology and repair made in transnational discursive or deliberative publics (Fraser 2007; Daase 2010) should be examined carefully. When public rituals of memorization in national public...

    • Chapter 9 Memories of Jews and the Holocaust in Post-Communist Eastern Europe: The Case of Poland
      (pp. 183-212)
      Joanna B. Michlic

      This chapter considers the representations of Jews and the Holocaust in post-communist Poland from 2002—the year when the public debate about the Jedwabne massacre of July 10, 1941 culminated in the publication of the forensic report of the Institute of National Memory—until 2011. The debate about Jedwabne was the most profound and the longest of any historical issue in Poland since the political transformation of 1989. The almost constant preoccupation with all things Jewish- and Holocaust-related in the realm of national discourse about “who we are” and “who we wish to be” makes Polish society stand out among the post-communist...

    • Chapter 10 1989 as Collective Memory “Refolution”: East-Central Europe Confronts Memorial Silence
      (pp. 213-238)
      Susan C. Pearce

      Our late modern era is saturated with collective spectacles of memory, as well as confrontations with memorial silences. Ethnic groups, generations, and entire nations project their collective memories onto screens that are often framed by the concerns of the present. An explosion of attention to social memory (Olick et al. 2011) has become both a public and scholarly concern. Erika Doss speaks of a “memorial mania” as a present-day obsession, accompanied by “an urgent, excessive desire to claim—or secure—those issues in visibly public culture” (Doss 2008: 7). Americans, for example, have seen one museum and memorial after another...

    • Conclusion. Comments on Silence, Screen, and Spectacle
      (pp. 239-243)
      Lindsey A. Freeman, Benjamin Nienass and Rachel Daniell

      In previous eras, the study of social memory required a prowler of history with excellent hearing, and by this we mean a researcher with good listening skills, who would stealthily plunge into the historical record, get dusty in the archives, and if possible, listen to those witnesses still alive who were present at the “event.” Make no mistake: these practices are still valuable. But today, for those interested in social memory a deeper skill set is necessary, as our abilities to record, store, recall, and shape social memories are enhanced, complicated, and challenged by new technologies. Today, we must move...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 244-246)
  10. Index
    (pp. 247-249)