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  • Introduction:Landscapes of Violence: Memory and Sacred Space
  • Katharina Schramm (bio)

Violence leaves traces. Be it habitually remembered or consciously evoked, it has profound effects on individual consciousness as well as collective identifications. Moreover, the memory of violence is not only embedded in peoples' bodies and minds but also inscribed onto space in all kinds of settings: memorials, religious shrines, border zones or the natural environment. The process of the identification of memory with place is not at all self-evident, as it implies the complex entanglement of procedures of remembering, forgetting and the production of counter-memories.1 Our specific focus on memorial landscapes of violence widens the scope of analysis by drawing together processes of movement and emplacement, thereby emphasizing the dynamics and translocal embedding of commemorative activity. Such landscapes are never uniform or fixed, but rather emergent and contested; they are constantly re/produced by the different people who are engaged in memory work in various ways.2

In the existing literature, the description of the relationship between official commemorations and popular or minority discourses and counter-memories as a contested terrain often implies that these positions are mutually exclusive.3 However, such a dichotomization of positions tends to obscure the many overlaps between them.4 The articles in our collection therefore aim at presenting a more balanced view of these encounters, without denying the existing power asymmetries between different subject positions, or the political interests that are at stake in the commemoration of violence. We therefore focus on the extensive permeation of the several [End Page 5] layers of interpretation through which a memorial landscape is perceived and trans/formed.

Moreover, places and landscapes do not simply act as memory containers but rather profoundly shape, and are also shaped by, the ways in which violence is experienced and performed as well as remembered.5 All contributors to this special issue therefore pay close attention to the material aspects of the landscapes they analyze, be it in terms of authentication (Eschebach, Schäuble, Schramm), imaginative potential (Schäuble, Schramm) or the obstruction of movement that impedes on certain memories and engenders others (Feldman). Careful not to attribute agency solely to the physical environment,6 the authors meticulously carve out the shifting interface between symbolic forms, narrative strategies and material practices as it becomes apparent in the politically charged realm of commemoration.7 This tense relationship is apparent in designed memorials—whether erected at sites where violence and suffering took place, such as the former Ravensbrück concentration camp in East Germany (Eschebach), or in central national locations, such as the Berlin Holocaust Memorial (discussed below).8 It is also expressed at sites where natural landscape features become saturated with meaning through memorial ascription, as for example in the case of the Dinaric mountain range that separates Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, which has been the scene of several violent conflicts (Schäuble), or in the example of the northern Ghanaian landscape that is being redesigned as a destination for African American pilgrimage tourists in search of the slave trail (Schramm). Finally, it can be observed in the unavoidable confrontation between different groups of religious pilgrims to the Holy Land and contemporary politics at the recently erected Separation Wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories (Feldman).

Apart from concretizing the notion of landscapes of violence, the case studies brought together here aim at investigating a specific aspect of the relationship between violence, memory, body and landscape—namely the sacralization of memorial space. Hence, the sacred is not to be understood as an innate and unchanging quality inherent to certain objects or sites, but rather as potentiality, which may take different forms for different actors.9 Sacralization, as we understand it, takes place on two levels. First, it concerns the violent past and its relationship with the present. On the one hand, this linkage can be articulated in the overtly religious realm. For [End Page 6] example, past violence may reverberate in the articulations and demands of ancestral and other spirits, which need to be constantly addressed by the living; or, it may be incorporated into religious liturgy, in prayers, votive shrines and the like. On the other hand, sacralization...


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pp. 5-22
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