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  Built memorials, usually in the form of public statuary or other symbolic architecture, are designed and constructed to commemorate a sense of national or local identity and symbolize a collective memory of events or persons. Public monuments have been used in this way largely since the nineteenth century, to cultivate national identity, to present in \'heroic\' form figures of national historical importance and, thus, to commemorate a sense both of place and of significant historical events. Geographers have only relatively recently turned to study public monuments as a way of understanding the ways in which cultural identity, at national and local scales, is constructed or resisted at the popular level (see also nation; nationalism). Harvey\'s (1979) study of the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur in Paris was a pioneering paper in this respect, in which he documented the contested political meaning of the building and its site in Montmartre for conservatives and communards alike in nineteenth-century Paris and demonstrated the ways in which the monument could be read as a way of understanding French national politics. More recent work has been concerned with the role of monuments in negotiating national identity and with the politics of commemoration as revealed through war and other memorials (see also culture).

Some work on monuments, commemoration and national identity discusses the idea of the built form and design of cities as itself expressive of \'the spirit of the age\', monumental expressions of a national character. It is possible to concede, too, that other landscapes — such as Monument Valley in southern Utah, USA, or, for England, the Stour Valley immortalized by John Constable — have enduring iconic significance as a nation\'s view of itself (Daniels, 1993; Johnson, 1995) (see also moral landscapes). Most studies have concentrated, however, upon individual monuments or public statuary as a means to explore, for example, issues of nationalism, local Identity, class allegiance and the collective memory of war. In national commemoration these uses of monuments have been shown to be gendered in several ways: through the allegorical use of the female form as the representation of Liberty or Virtue or \'Motherland\'; through the fact that most figures commemorated are male; and because women, whilst active in some ways, were often marginalized from the processes of negotiation involved in the organization and construction of commemorative statues (Nora, 1984-92; Gillis, 1994; Johnson, 1995). If monuments are, then, figurative representations of national sentiments and of myths \'cast in stone\' as part of the ways in which national \'imagined communities\' are structured (see also imaginative geography and iconography), it is also the case that monuments may subvert the claims of authority, that they may become a symbol of local meaning and the focus not of a collective memory but of disputed renditions of the past (Withers, 1996). Johnson has shown for Ireland, for example, how public statuary has been used to construct and mythologize a heroic past for Ireland, a national identity forged in opposition to English authority yet one never itself fixed and monolithic but one always being reshaped as an ideological contest between Republican and Unionist traditions (Johnson, 1995).

War memorials as monuments of commemoration have been the focus of a wide range of work, by historians interested in the politics of remembrance and in sites of memory and by political and cultural geographers exploring the connections between place, landscape and political meaning (see popular memory). The politics of memory and meaning of Great War memorials in Britain, for example, has been shown to be highly contested (Heffernan, 1995). More recently, the meanings attaching to the Vietnam Veterans\' Memorial in Washington, D.C., have been differently defined by the values of the military, of nonmilitary personnel and by grieving relatives, and, not least, by its stark non-triumphalist architecture in a central site of the capital city of the USA (MacCannell, 1992). Attention has also been paid to the contested memorialization of Auschwitz and other concentration camps of the Second World War. In these ways, monuments are a central part of what Young has called \'the objects of a people\'s national pilgrimage\' (Young, 1993, p. 2), and offer considerable potential for further geographical research. (CWJW)

References Daniels, S. 1993: Fields of vision: landscape imagery and national identity in England and the United States. Cambridge: Polity Press. Gillis, R., ed., 1994: Commemorations: the politics of national identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Harvey, D. 1979: Monument and myth. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 69: 362-81. Heffernan, M. 1995: For ever England: the western front and the politics of remembrance in Britain. Ecumene 2: 293-324. Johnson, N. 1995: Cast in stone: monuments, geography, and nationalism. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 13: 51-65. MacCannell, D. 1992: The Vietnam memorial in Washington, DC. In D. MacCannell, ed., Empty meeting grounds. London: Routledge, 280-2. Nora, P. 1984-92: Les lieux de mémoire, 3 vols. Paris: Arthaud. Withers, C.W.J. 1996: Place, memory, monument: memorializing the past in contemporary highland Scotland. Ecumene 3: 325-44. Young, J.E. 1993: The texture of memory: holocaust memorials and meaning. London and New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Suggested Reading Gillies, R., ed., 1994: Commemorations: the politics of national identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Johnson, N. 1995: Cast in stone: monuments, geography, and nationalism. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 13: 51-65.



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