A Project of the Hamburg Institute for Social Research in Cooperation with the Einstein Forum, Potsdam

Berliner Colloquien zur Zeitgeschichte

Berliner Colloquienzur Zeitgeschichte

Dead Soldiers Fighting. War Monuments and Memorials Beyond Memory and RepresentationHosted by Mischa Gabowitsch

20 and 21 September 2013

In recent decades, scholarly interest in commemoration sites has contributed to a wave of studies on war memorials ranging from the United States to Japan, and from the former Soviet Union to Latin America. The most common approach in this field has been to study which aspects of the past are represented by the memorials, and how, while also asking what they conceal: how are the war dead counted, identified, and classified, and which categories of the dead are omitted? Which historical narrative is enshrined in the memorials, and how does it relate to nationhood, gender, or race?

In this workshop, we went beyond the memory studies’ perspective and discussed the significance of war memorials from a range of new angles: from the logistics and architectural challenges of burying large numbers of soldiers to the uses of war memorials as part of the military presence of occupying powers, and from the ways in which war memorials structure urban spaces and rituals to their removal, destruction, rededication, or their use as canvases by street artists and political protesters. Of course, the significance of monuments for memory studies also played a role in our discussions. However, the suggestion was to take them seriously in their materiality, instead of treating them merely as discourses and representations in stone.

The colloquiums’ guests were invited to submit a brief profile of one monument or memorial of their choice, with a photograph and basic details (name, location, year of construction/opening, name of sculptor/architect). The profiles were used to create a slideshow which ran during intermissions and which enabled us to refer to individual examples. In addition, each guest had the opportunity to introduce »his« or »her« memorial very briefly at the beginning of one of the four discussion sessions. These mini-presentations were distributed to match the themes of each session and provided empirical material for our discussions.

Conference language was English.



Interview with Mischa Gabowitsch

Mischa Gabowitsch, Heonik Kwon, Edward Madigan and Kirk Savage in Mittelweg 36 (in German)