Absent bodies, uncertain memorials : performing memory in Berlin and Buenos Aires / by Brigitte Sion.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Berlin and the Monument to the Victims of State Terrorism within the Park of Memory (Parque de la Memoria) in Buenos Aires have been controversial from start to finish. The Berlin memorial was seventeen years in the making; the memorial to the Argentine Desaparecidos is entering its twelfth year of construction. While these sites differ in many respects, Germany and Argentina share a history of dictatorial regimes that murdered civilians on a massive scale. The Nazis implemented the genocide of millions of Jews and other minorities during World War II. In Argentina, the junta-led state repression was responsible for the “disappearance” and subsequent murder of thousands of civilians between 1976 and 1983. Decades later, new governments in Germany and Argentina acknowledged the responsibility of their respective states for these mass murders by memorializing the victims with a national monument in the capital city for the first time. This study of two memorials attempts to develop a model and method for analyzing the memorialization of recent tragedies that share several basic characteristics: the state creates a self-indicting national memorial to the victims of state-sponsored mass murder in the absence of their bodies. Analyzed as sites of performances and as performances themselves, these memorials illuminate the ways in which people engage with them, and how an architecture of absence triggers affective memory through somatic experience. While thanotourism and architourism are a key to their success in attracting visitors, they also pose a threat to their commemorative role. While assessing the success and failure of these memorials, this study explores the ways in which these sites are paradigmatic and offers a model for analyzing a transnational circuit of commemorative practices.
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