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  • Global Memoryscapes: Contesting Remembrance in a Transnational Age ed. by Kendall R. Phillips, G. Mitchell Reyes
  • Cynthia Duquette Smith
Global Memoryscapes: Contesting Remembrance in a Transnational Age. Edited by Kendall R. Phillips and G. Mitchell Reyes. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2011; pp. 231. $26.00 paper.

Growing out of the 2005 “Contesting Public Memories” conference at Syracuse University attended by an interdisciplinary and international group of scholars, Global Memoryscapes: Contesting Remembrance in a Transnational Age catalyzes critical thought regarding the [End Page 191] operation of public memory beyond its relation to the nation-state. Edited by Kendall Phillips and G. Mitchell Reyes, the book’s objective of expanding “the study of both public memory and globalization” (15) is amply achieved by its eight chapters. The collection explores public memory examples from around the globe and across a broad range of memory texts, including media coverage, architecture, museums, historical landmarks, and family heirlooms.

In their introduction to the volume, Phillips and Reyes contextualize their introduction of the concept of a “global memoryscape,” by beginning with a review of literature exploring the relationship between public memory and the nation-state. They contend that the nation-state itself is being “decentered . . . as the primary locus of cultural meaning” (9). At the same time, the editors argue that global encounters “do not so much eliminate the importance of national or local cultures as alter them” (12). Building on Arjun Appadurai’s understanding of globalization as the movement of people and ideas across a global landscape, Phillips and Reyes introduce the concept of “global memoryscape,” highlighting its utility “for imagining the ways that global forces impact local memories, the ways that international encounters create and transform memories, and the ways that memories change and adapt as they move across the global landscape” (19). The relationship between local, national, and global forces should be seen as one of adaptation and mutual, although uneven, influence. It is this complex relationship between the local, the national, and the global that the collected chapters of the volume work in concert to elucidate.

The contributed chapters of Global Memoryscapes begin with Urvashi Butalia’s engrossing essay chronicling the journey of Bir Bahadur, an Indian Sikh in his 70s, as he returns to his home village in Pakistan more than 40 years after his family’s exodus during the British Partition of India. In many respects, it is the reader’s own journey through this chapter that reveals the sometimes ineffable complexity of memory, forgetting, and forgiveness. Through the lens of Bir Bahadur’s story, we see how memories of tragic and (in his case literally) unsettling events can unfold for individuals and communities.

Following Butalia’s opening essay, the next three chapters reflect on public memory in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s demise and the disintegration of the Communist bloc. In her cogent analysis of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, Ekaterina Haskins draws attention to [End Page 192] how, throughout its complicated history, this structure “performed a key role in defining and legitimizing state power by making visible a particular version of national identity” (52). Haskins chronicles the major phases of the Cathedral’s life, with emphasis on its controversial replication between 1995 and 1999 in a nostalgic move designed to foster positive identification with Russia’s prerevolutionary past. Haskins’s work presses us to consider the limits of contestation to support multiple readings of the past, especially when access to information and the means to share it are far from assured.

Focusing on the events of the spring of 2005 in Serbia, Christine Lavrence’s essay examines the revival of the tradition of Youth Day and its accompanying parade to better understand “how Yugo-nostalgia—pining for the multicultural socialist federation of republics—can coexist with continued resentments from the war” (91). Lavrence argues that by “grating personal experience onto the historical” collective memory enables this coexistence between historical representation and personal narrative, perhaps especially when the two are conflicting (91).

In the last chapter connected to the fall of the Soviet Union, Margaret A. Lindauer examines the Mayrau Mining Museum in the Czech Republic. Lindauer begins with the intriguing observation...


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pp. 191-195
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