Marking Time with Vernacular Remembrance
The vernacular and monumental are intertwined at sites of collective memory, and ambiguity and fluidity mark the boundaries that separate them both analytically and symbolically. While there are clear similarities in the way they commemorate past events, the distinction between the two modes of remembrance remains significant. Put in general terms, vernacular, commonplace, and everyday modes of remembrance refer to those social practices of memorialization that are created outside of official or institutionalized sanction. Since commemorative sites are places where “memory crystallizes and secretes itself” as the material manifestations of social consciousness, unsanctioned vernacular performances of shared mourning are useful guides to understanding the ways that local communities choose to remember their pasts. These modes of remembrance provide evidence of a felt-need for “bottom-up” avenues through which to express grief at loss, and they reflect efforts to reclaim, or at least more properly represent, the distinctiveness of the persons mourned and the events remembered. In the broadest sense, communities of mourners – in looking for ways to express shared sorrow – make use of material objects to remind themselves of what happened in the past and to re-orient themselves to the present.
Keywords: Collective memory and selective forgetting, Contemporary (post-apartheid) South Africa, Heritage and tourism studies, Commemorative practices, Monuments and memorials, Museums and public exhibitions, Thanotourism, Traumascapes
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