Tag Archives: Remembrance

Lest we forget?

A soldier proudly wears his Remembrance Day Poppy alongside his Afghanistan Medal Source: Wikimedia Commons

A soldier proudly wears his Remembrance Day Poppy alongside his Afghanistan Medal
Source: Wikimedia Commons

by Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

Sandwiched neatly between Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day, this post could only really address one thing; the inherently geographical themes of remembrance and memory. Geographers have engaged with the wide range of embodied, material, and spatial practices involved in both collective and individual remembering; from war memorials and commemorative ceremonies or exhibitions, to a photograph of a missed relative kept on a mantelpiece or the poppy so imbued with symbolism. The spaces, practices, and material culture associated with memory provide a wealth of research fodder for cultural geographers. However, let us not forget (if you’ll pardon the pun) the other side of the coin; whilst there is a burgeoning geographical literature that discusses selective remembering – particularly work that has considered the traces of the Holocaust in Berlin’s ‘memory district’ – there has been less investigation into processes of forgetting.

In an article published online in Transactions of the IBG earlier this year, Muzaini (2014) explores the active processes of forgetting practised by people who lived through the Second World War in Perak, Malaysia. This article explicitly sets out to address the oft-neglected question of forgetting and, in particular, the strategies used by individuals to obscure and obliterate painful memories of war. However, as he discovers, despite their best efforts to avoid them, memories unfortunately have a terrible habit of re-emerging involuntarily and unpredictably. The arguments put forward in this article almost certainly could be applied to some people in this country living with memories of war.

Muzaini (2014) conceptualises processes of individual forgetting in three ways. Firstly, ‘silence’ is a technique often used by those who want to forget; they may avoid talking about topics that could trigger upsetting memories. Secondly, some people may throw away or hide objects that they associate with unwanted recollections, re-arranging their domestic space to avoid upset. Finally, a more embodied form of avoidance involves staying away from certain places associated with troubling memories, even if it means ‘taking the long way round’. However, these active processes of evading the past are often in vain; unwanted memories can return through interactions with people, objects, and places. Triggers can also be multi-sensory; sounds and smells as well as bodily scars and injuries may elicit flash-backs of traumatic past events.

The fact is that the past has agency; it can exert a strong influence on the present and can never truly be forgotten. So, whilst you’re remembering and celebrating those who have fought in wars for our country during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, spare a thought also for those who would rather just leave the past in the past.

books_iconMuzaini, H. (2014). “On the matter of forgetting and ‘memory returns’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, DOI: 10.1111/tran.12060.

GJ book reviewhttp://poppies.hrp.org.uk/

GJ book reviewhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-29879015

GJ book reviewhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-29407993

GJ book reviewhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-29829581

Spaces of Remembrance

By Catherine Waite

Everyone is familiar with the traditional symbols, places and times associated with Remembrance Day. This year’s Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, launched just under two weeks ago, hopes to sell 45 million poppies, the nationally recognised symbol of remembrance in the UK. Yet, the 2012 Poppy Appeal also incorporates a new and innovative method to encourage society to mark the 2 minutes silence at 11am on Sunday 11th November. By using the social media tool “Thunderclap” it is intended that the same message will be posted simultaneously on thousands of Twitter and Facebook profiles as a symbol of remembrance. In doing this the Royal British Legion’s appeal for remembering the fallen moves into a new space of remembrance, alongside the more traditional commemorations that take place at the Cenotaph in Whitehall and at local war memorials across the country.

Changes in the spaces and acts of remembrance have this year also been the subject of geographical consideration. The work of Jenkings et al. (2012) “Wootton Bassett and the political spaces of remembrance and mourning” uses print media analysis to consider how the Wiltshire market town became a nationally recognised space of remembrance as a result of British military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the course of their work they explore how this space spontaneously became a site of memory and remembrance, yet a site that ultimately became temporary in nature following the decision to relocate the destination of repatriation flights away from RAF Lyneham. It is therefore clear from both the innovative use of spaces and symbols by the Royal British Legion and the temporary use of urban areas as spaces of memory and remembrance that geography still has much to offer and yet much to learn about the contemporary uses of space.

Jenkings, K.N., Megoran, N., Woodward, R. and Bos, D. 2012 Wootton Bassett and the political spaces of remembrance and mourning Area 44:3 356-363

Poppy appeal launches with concert BBC News 24th October 2012

Royal British Legion first with Thunderclap social media tool BBC News 5th November 2012

Two Minute Silence Thunderclap

Death by Geography: reviewing spaces of death

by Fiona Ferbrache

US cemetery, Colleville-sur-Mer Calvados (14), Normandy

Pick up a daily newspaper and you will find an obituary section providing biographical sketches of recently deceased individuals.  Last week, these included Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda III, children’s author Jan Berenstein, and Sir Alan Cottrell, chief scientific adviser to the government.  In the current volume of Area, Lakhbir Jassal (2012) writes that the subject of death has been scarce within academic material, particularly scholarly approaches that emphasise  space and place.

Among Area’s reviews this quarter, Jassal reflects on a book that does deal with the spatial study of death: Deathscapes: spaces of death, dying, mourning and remembrance.  This collection, edited by Avril Maddrell and James D. Sidaway, comprises fifteen chapters that draw from empirical and theoretical perspectives, and a multidisciplinary framework.  With the editors’ disciplinary roots in geography, this collection centralises the concept of place and space, not least through the use of the term deathscapes “to capture the spatial and place-based logics underscoring a wide range of social and cultural processes association with death and dying” (Jassal, 2012:124).  Jassel draws, for example, on the  “spatialised practices” and processes for  “managing, ordering and governing the dead” that are explored through chapters on body disposal, and private and natural burial.

The review draws attention to western traditions of death and body disposal – principally burial.  For Jassal, this is one weakness of the collection for it excludes consideration of the diversity of traditions that are shaping ‘the west’ as a partial consequence of migration.  Jassal’s other main critique is that the volume reinforces a fixed geography of death and dying that fails to adequately account for dynamic patterns of death.  Overall however, Jassal’s review shows an agreement with the Forward of Deathscapes; that this collection will “help in understanding the intensely emotional experiences of our lives” (p.125).

  Jassal, L. (2012) Review: Deathscapes: spaces for death, dying, mourning and remembrance. Area. 44.1, pp.124-125

  Obituaries in The Guardian