After life : reconstructing affect at sites of monumental destruction

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. Access is restricted indefinitely. ----- What happens when a monumental object is physically destroyed? Is its “life" as a socially significant, presencing object at an end? Or might the process of destruction paradoxically work to enhance its symbolic force and power? This thesis examines the “afterlife" of two monumental social objects, physically transformed through acts of cultural destruction, and their contested reconfiguration in new, highly political contexts. In 1993, the Mostar Bridge, in the small city of Mostar, in Bosnia Herzegovina, was completely destroyed, during a vicious war that killed thousands and was marked by widespread destruction of cultural heritage. Reconstructed in 2004, as an exact copy of the original, this “new Old Bridge" has assumed an afterlife as an intentional monument to reconciliation. The World Trade Centre, in New York, has also been reconfigured since its destruction in 2001, as a place of national mourning and memory, in relation to a singular act of terrorism. Both sites negotiate the difficult memory work associated with traumatic events, and represent very different examples of monumental transformation in this context. Whilst much work on the monumental place has considered its social life as a mnemonic technology, and its role in the spatialization of national memory, there has been less consideration of the “afterlife" of the monumental place marked by traumatic destruction. Embodying not only the residue of past lives, but also the imprint of historical rupture, the liminal status of the place of monumental destruction, raises questions about the processes through which meaning and affect are destroyed and produced, and memories erased and inscribed. This thesis analyses the contested reconfiguration of both places, as sites of collective remembering and forgetting, and their re-investment with cultural value and symbolic significance. The cultural materiality and material culture associated with both “things" have been central to this process, mobilized as strategic resources with which to shape and redirect public memory in relation to the recent traumatic past. Far from being forgotten or erased, through acts of cultural destruction, I thus consider the ways in which both “things'” have continued to be imbued with meaning, memory and a form of mediating agency, that is affective as much as conceptual, assuming a potent “afterlife" in the present.
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