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Returns of War: The contentious memorialisation of political violence and European bodies politic

Michael Drake
University of Hull
Michael Drake
University of Hull
Open Panel

Abstract

Collective imaginaries invest the body of the dead with cultural significance through memorialisation. The memorialised bodies of the war dead in particular (like those of martyrs, with whom they share the attribute of sacrifice) stand in for the body politic in the constitution of national imaginaries. In recent years, such memorialisation has become contentious across Europe, the assumptions underpinning ritual remembrance destabilised, in parallel scenarios extending from the Baltic States to the Atlantic coast of Eire. This paper undertakes a comparative survey of recent political conflict arising from the memorialisation of the war dead across Europe. It relates these politics to the problematic of the legitimation of violence consequent on the dwindling capacities and authority of the nation-state and its political ideologies in the context of globalisation. Theorising these conflicts as a politics of memorialisation rather than remembrance focuses attention on the contentious representations of the past which question previously settled issues of the justice and legitimacy of the historical deployment of violence.