The book develops a new approach to, and a distinct reading of, the contemporary memorial-building boom which began in the 1980s.
Locating the origins of this boom in the crises associated with postmodernity and the rise of neoliberalism, it analyses the complex interplay between neoliberalism, postmodernism and nationalism in some of the most well-known memorials and memorial-museums to have emerged in the USA and Germany over the last four decades.
Rather than offering a survey of contemporary memorials, it traces a specific trajectory (and certainly not the only one ripe for analysis): from the postmodern memorials of the 1980s to the increasingly monumental and authoritative memorials and memorial-museums being constructed today.
Developing a distinct interdisciplinary approach, the book offers a critical analysis of the relationship between the memorials’ form, the “visitor experience” they’re intended to offer. and the understanding of history and our relation to it which underpins their philosophical, ethical and political stance. Questioning the notion that contemporary memorials are ambiguous, non-ideological and non-nationalistic, the book argues that they are engaged in rearticulating nationalism in line with the contradictory demands of the current conjuncture.
As well as critically analysing the political function of national memorials, the book is equally concerned with interrogating the aesthetic means they employ, with a specific focus on the way in which they mobilise the power of the sublime to generate particular affective responses. The book argues that contemporary national memorials reflect one of the most significant convergences between postmodern thought and neoliberal ideology – both project a permanent present, urging us to recreate ourselves in the light of existing conditions, for “there is no alternative”.
Nicola Clewer gained an MA in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2006. In 2016 she completed her PhD at the University of Brighton, where she teaches on the following degree programmes: BA Humanities; BA History of Art and Design; MA Cultural and Critical Theory; MA Cultural History, Memory and Identity. She co-edited Certoma, Clewer and Elsey (eds.) The Politics of Space and Place (2012).
Nicola Clewer’s work examining urban postmodern monument culture is indispensable. By providing a theoretical framework for the concept of the sublime as applied through comparative analysis, Clewer shows how memorials in the neoliberal state from the 1980s onward reify traditional uses of the past to fulfill contemporary ideological and political needs.
Nicola Clewer adds complexity and a needed investigation into large-scale public memorialization that appears to provide insight into the past, but instead, supports contemporary nationalism. Her case studies offer insights into the economics of memorials in urban locations and into the problematic nature of creating sublime spaces for public memory sites. This book provides readers with a necessary set of concerns that should be addressed when visiting any memorial.