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Title: Memorialisation in the Postmodern-Neoliberal Conjuncture
Author: Clewer, Nicola
ISNI:       0000 0004 5994 0072
Awarding Body: University of Brighton
Current Institution: University of Brighton
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis analyses the place, meaning and significance of large-scale national memorials within what I describe as the contemporary postmodern-neoliberal conjuncture. Developing a distinctive theoretical and methodological approach, I explore the complex interplay between neoliberalism, postmodernism and nationalism in some of the most well-known and most written about national memorials and memorial-museums to have emerged in the US and Germany over the last 35 years. The prevailing consensus in the literature is that the memorials with which I am concerned are ambiguous, pluralistic, non-didactic and non-nationalistic. In contrast, I argue that far from renouncing the traditional ideological role of the monument, contemporary memorials are engaged in rearticulating nationalism in line with the contradictory demands of the current conjuncture. Offering a critical analysis of the relationship between the memorials’ form, the kind of ‘visitor experience’ they’re intended to offer, and the understanding of history and our relation to it which underpins their philosophical, ethical and political stance, I trace a specific trajectory from the ‘postmodern’ memorials of the 1980s through to what I argue are the increasingly authoritarian memorials being constructed today. Commonly invoked in discussions of catastrophic historical events and evoked through various means in contemporary memorials and memorial-museums, the aesthetic concept of the sublime is an important critical category of analysis; not least, I contend, because it goes to the heart of both neoliberalism and postmodernism. While their relationship is complex and dialectical, I argue that, among other things, crucially they both share a profound epistemological scepticism regarding what we can know and represent and that this has far reaching implications. Most significant of these is their rejection of the notion that radical political transformation (of a progressive sort) is either possible or desirable. I explore the various ways in which the sublime is manifest in the case studies under discussion as well as some of its philosophical and political implications, not least when it comes to the question of how we understand the past and our relation to it. Read in these terms, a complex picture begins to emerge. Operating within this conjuncture, today national memorials are required to pack an emotional punch, offering visitors emotionally affective ‘experiences’ whilst boosting the touristic and symbolic economies of the cities in which they are located. They must also fulfil the 3 traditional requirement of representing the nation and interpellating national subjects. My analysis of these memorials, which are commonly praised for their ambiguity as well as affective power, points to their continuing political and ideological role in reaffirming the nation and the neoliberal status quo.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available