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Diversion, denial, sanitation: On the ideology of public memorials.


The memorial is a sensory re-enactment of our experience of 9/11. Everything is falling down. Water is falling down into a black hole. The roar of the water, somehow an echo of the buildings falling down. That visceral experience does put us in the sense of being re-victimized. Re-enactment means you cannot go beyond the act. I would wish our memorials suggest paths to a future contemplation of what actually took place.

Art historian Harriet Senie examines the ways American memorials shape ideology - from the utilization of form and space to create a dominant "civic religion," to the depoliticization of history and individualization of grief found in the contemporary memorial-cemetery paradigm - and calls for the building of memorials beyond victimhood, and towards contemplation.

Harriet is author of Memorials to Shattered Myths: Vietnam to 9/11 from Oxford University Press.

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Harriet Senie

Harriet Senie is an author, art historian and Director of the M.A. Program in Art History and Art Museum Studies at City College, CUNY.


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