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Grassroots Memorials

Grassroots Memorials: The Politics of Memorializing Traumatic Death

Peter Jan Margry
Cristina Sánchez-Carretero
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Grassroots Memorials
    Book Description:

    Grassroots memorials have become major areas of focus during times of trauma, danger, and social unrest. These improvised memorial assemblages continue to display new and more dynamic ways of representing collective and individual identities and in doing so reveal the steps that shape the national memories of those who struggle to come to terms with traumatic loss. This volume focuses on the hybrid quality of these temporary memorials as both monuments of mourning and as focal points for protest and expression of discontent. The broad range of case studies in this volume include anti-mafia shrines, Theo van Gogh's memorial, September 11th memorials, March 11th shrines in Madrid, and Carlo Giuliani memorials in Genoa.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-190-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
    CSC and PJM
  5. Introduction Rethinking Memorialization: The Concept of Grassroots Memorials
    (pp. xii-48)
    Peter Jan Margry and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero

    On 13 October 2008, the initial global economic crash had just occurred, and people everywhere seemed to be in a state of shock about what had happened to the world. In the City of London, a memorial was created on a lamppost in front of the Bank of England. It was constructed with flowers, stuffed animals, and crosses and topped with a plaque representing a circle of bleeding roses and the text “In Loving Memory of the Boom Economy.” Letters were attached expressing grievances about what had happened and what was yet to come, like “R.I.P., Rest in Poverty.” It...

  6. I. Negotiating Societal Violence

    • Chapter 1 ʺDifficult Remembranceʺ: Memorializing Mafia Victims in Palermo
      (pp. 51-70)
      Deborah Puccio-Den

      This article, which reflects on the forms of memorialization of “Mafia victims,” focuses on one particular site: theAlbero Falcone(Falcone Tree). At 5:58 PM on 23 May 1992, a section of the expressway between Palermo and Puntaraisi airport, near the hamlet of Capaci, blew up, killing judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife, judge Francesca Morvillo, and three members of their police escort. The section that blew up had been packed with explosives by a Mafia commando.

      On the day of the attack—which came to be called the “Capaci massacre”— Palermitans spontaneously assembled at the foot of the tree (a...

    • Chapter 2 Ritual Mediations of Violent Death: An Ethnography of the Theo van Gogh Memorial Site, Amsterdam
      (pp. 71-96)
      Irene Stengs

      Shortly after 9:00 on Tuesday morning, 2 November 2004, my husband called me at my office to tell me that he had just heard on the radio that a man had been shot on Linnaeusstraat in Amsterdam, and that the victim was probably Theo van Gogh. It was uncertain whether or not van Gogh—if the announcement indeed concerned him—had survived the attack. Within an hour, however, all uncertainty was gone: Van Gogh, a well-known Dutch film director and provocative publicist on the issue of Islam and immigration, was dead. The killer, a man in Muslim attire, had been...

    • Chapter 3 Between Commemoration and Social Activism: Spontaneous Shrines, Grassroots Memorialization, and the Public Ritualesque in Derry
      (pp. 97-107)
      Jack Santino

      The death of any individual strikes at the hearts of the living. Family and friends mourn a lost life; a community recognizes a permanent loss. If a death is thought to have been needless—or worse, politically motivated—mourning may well take on the trappings of public protest. Along with the official rituals of church and state, we often see, as the editors of this volume suggest, a kind of “grassroots memorialization,” in which individuals are mourned as a form of social action. When the causes of death are objectionable, foreseeable, or avoidable, people often mourn publicly in protest (Margry...

    • Chapter 4 Memorializing Shooters with Their Victims: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University
      (pp. 108-142)
      Sylvia Grider

      In the past twenty-five years, the custom has developed to memorialize victims of tragedy and disaster by the creation of spontaneous shrines or performative memorials at or near the site, which has today become so common that Erica Doss calls the phenomenon “memorial mania” (Doss 2008b). Because of the emotional intensity of the context in which they are created, these shrines express the immediate prevailing local worldview. Generally, they are anonymous, communal creations that conform to community standards and mores. As one researcher remarked about the Columbine shrines, “Memorials are only as powerful as the community they seek to honor...

  7. II. Contesting Objectionable Death

    • Chapter 5 Marking Death: Grief, Protest, and Politics after a Fatal Traffic Accident
      (pp. 145-168)
      Monika Rulfs

      In August 1991, nine-year-old Nicola Seher was run over and killed in Hamburg by a truck whose driver had failed to spot a set of red traffic lights. What could have been an inconspicuous accident developed into a two-week protest against traffic policy. People gathered at the site of the accident, most of them silent, some crying, some talking to each other. They laid such objects as candles and flowers on the road, and some expressed their determination to stay there, or to return the following day, to demand political change. They were both mourning the deceased and protesting; this...

    • Chapter 6 Ghost Bikes: Memorialization and Protest on City Streets
      (pp. 169-187)
      Robert Thomas Dobler

      In October 2003, the first “ghost bike” appeared in St. Louis, Missouri, to memorialize the death of a cyclist who had been hit by a car. A local bicycle shop owner witnessed the accident and placed a mangled bike, painted stark white, on the scene, with a sign proclaiming “Cyclist struck here.” The movement quickly spread beyond St. Louis, and similar memorials have since appeared in thirty other cities across North and South America, Europe, and Australia, creating a network of mourners and activists who are working to increase vehicular awareness of bicyclists. The sudden popularity of ghost bike memorials...

    • Chapter 7 Mourning the Polish Pope in Polish Cities
      (pp. 188-207)
      Ewa Klekot

      Pope John Paul II died on 2 April 2005. Two days later, the largest Polish newspaper—Gazeta Wyborcza—published a commemorative text written by Father Tadeusz Bartoś, a Dominican theologian of the younger generation who is known for his open approach to the questions that are usually silenced in the conservative Polish church.¹ In his article of 4 April 2005, titled “The Last Great Romantic,” Bartoś writes:

      This Pope is an icon of our recent history. He was an outstanding example in the age of spiritual battle. He was our voice when the Poles were condemned to silence; he was...

    • Chapter 8 Remembering La Tragedia: Commemorations of the 1999 Floods in Venezuela
      (pp. 208-226)
      Sandrine Revet

      In societies that experience catastrophic events, numerous practices are aimed at endowing those events with meaning. The contingent nature of a catastrophe and the disorder it creates are inconsistent with the human sense of reason and provoke anxiety. To overcome the anxiety and limit the disorder, societies generally seek to reestablish order by explaining the catastrophe and by evaluating it, narrating it, commemorating it, and trying to prevent its repetition. All of these processes enable people to deal actively with the disorienting event and to convert disorder into order (Balandier 1988).

      This logic fully applies to “natural” disasters. In contemporary...

  8. III. Sociability and Reflexive Antiterrorism

    • Chapter 9 Street Shrines and the Writing of Disaster: 9/11, New York, 2001
      (pp. 229-243)
      Béatrice Fraenkel

      First, I would like to put forward a general hypothesis that is, I think, corroborated by the various recent scholarly studies on grassroots memorials and spontaneous shrines. This phenomenon can be called a “new culture of disaster,” and it is currently shared by large numbers of people around the world. Beyond the specificity of each society, history, and religion, when a catastrophe strikes, people seem to draw on the same repertory of actions. For centuries, we have shared a common political activism in the form of demonstrations and strikes (Tilly 1986). But the public culture of disaster seems different for...

    • Chapter 10 The Madrid Train Bombings: Enacting the Emotional Body at the March 11 Grassroots Memorials
      (pp. 244-261)
      Cristina Sánchez-Carretero

      For more than a hundred years, anthropologists and psychologists have dealt with the role of collective mourning and the analysis of the roots of emotions. Although emotions are central for the understanding of grassroots memorials, emotions themselves are rarely the focus of research on the topic. At the same time, there is a clear social demand for the interpretation of emotions in order to, for example, understand the instrumentalizations that emotions can be the subject of in times of conflict and social unrest. In the acts of mourning performed at grassroots memorials, the emotions at play cover a wide range,...

    • Chapter 11 Purification and Remembrance: Eastern and Western Ways of Dealing with the Bali Bombings
      (pp. 262-282)
      Huub de Jonge

      On Saturday, 12 October 2002, the island of Bali was hit by three bomb attacks, two in the always crowded Legian Street—which is in the heart of the well-known Kuta tourist resort—and one in Renon, a district of the capital Den Pasar. The first attack was perpetrated shortly after eleven at night in Paddy’s Bar, a pub visited mainly by Westerners, by a suicide bomber wearing a jacket lined with explosives. The second incident occurred a few minutes later: A Mitsubishi van filled with ammunition blew up across the street from Paddy’s outside the Sari Club, a nightclub...

  9. IV. Instrumentalizing Repositories of Memory

    • Chapter 12 September 11: Museums, Spontaneous Memorials, and History
      (pp. 285-303)
      James B. Gardner

      Staff of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH), situated on the Mall in Washington, DC, began 11 September 2001 with a routine staff meeting, but things quickly changed as word spread through the auditorium of terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, threats to the Capitol, a car bomb at the US Department of State, fires on the National Mall, airplanes circling over the museum, and chaos on the streets. Fortunately, part of that was simply rumor, but the realities we shortly learned of were horrifying enough. Uncertain what would happen next, we kept the...

    • Chapter 13 Piazza Carlo Giuliani—G8 Summit, Genoa 2001: Death, Testimony, Memory
      (pp. 304-318)
      Fabio Caffarena and Carlo Stiaccini

      If memory is to be collective and useful, “an altar cannot be in honor of, but is to the memory of a person” (Camon 1978: 84). The memory of major events tends to crystallize, to acquire a fixed frame of interpretations and analysis, suggested by personal feelings and political beliefs. Tragedies, especially when highly shocking, tend to turn into “legendary” narratives, and the more important they are, the harder it becomes to examine them critically. The events of July 2001 in Genoa are already part of a militant legend. The death of Carlo Giuliani during the G8 riots was instantly...

    • Chapter 14 Memorializing a Controversial Politician: The ʺHeritagizationʺ of a Materialized Vox Populi
      (pp. 319-345)
      Peter Jan Margry

      It was still dark when we arrived, early in the morning of 7 April 2004, at the Westerveld cemetery in Driehuis, a small town that lies north of Haarlem and about a twenty-minute drive from Amsterdam. The archivist of the Meertens Institute had driven there in her van, while I had taken my station wagon. Between them, the two vehicles had enough room to carry all the material we had come to fetch. The old, out-of-the-way cemetery—which in daylight is one of the most beautiful in the Netherlands, situated as it is in the hilly and romantically overgrown dune...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 346-351)
  11. Index
    (pp. 352-374)