The Everyday Life of Memorials
Memorials are commonly studied as part of the commemorative infrastructure of modern society. Just as often, they are understood as sites of political contestation, where people battle over the meaning of events. But most of the time, they are neither. Instead, they take their rest as ordinary objects, part of the street furniture of urban life. Most memorials are “turned on” only on special days, such as Memorial Day, or at heated moments, as in August 2017, when the Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville was overtaken by a political maelstrom. The rest of the time they are turned off.
In The Everyday Life of Memorials (Zone, 2022), Andrew Shanken (Architecture and American Studies) explores the relationship of memorials to the pulses of daily life, and their place within the development of modern cities. Bringing together two distinct strands of scholarship — the study of the everyday and memory studies — he examines how memorials end up where they are, grow invisible, fight with traffic, get moved, are assembled into memorial zones, and are drawn anew into commemorations and political maelstroms that their original sponsors never could have imagined.
Shanken is joined by David Henkin (History). After a brief discussion, they respond to questions from the audience.