Places of Memory

We create memories by attaching meaning to objects, symbols, etc. These things create a connection to a specific time or place in time. Because of these memories, we become nostalgic for these past moments and places in time. This is the case not only for personal memory, but social memory as well. This can happen through the monuments, statues, etc. within social environments, not only in remembrance of the past, but in paying tribute to the significance of the past as well. Outside of Washington, D.C., Indianapolis devotes more acreage to monuments and memorials than any other city in the country. Even the focal point of downtown Indy is centered around Monument Circle. When things are worth remembering, we attach that meaning to something else in place of what is being remembered.

As it is stated in the reading by Till, places are spatial and social contexts of events, activities, and peoples; they are centers of meaning, memory, and experience for individuals and groups, constantly changing because they are interconnected to other places and peoples. Since we attach meaning to memories, a place is essentially a space of changing memory, whether its personal memory or social memory, as a place has different meaning to everyone.

Politics plays a part in what will be remembered and how they will be remembered, whether it involves the remembrance of influential individuals, grand moments in history, or nationalistic identities of the past. This can be both good and bad. It is important for individuals in power to beware of any potential controversy when creating points of memorial in social environments. This is the case in the reading, when at that time, the newly elected leader of Yugoslavia had erected a new memorial in Kosovo at what was considered the heart of “Old Serbia,” which was predominantly Muslim. This was said to be a symbolic and political act, in the attempt to reestablish or claim territory of the past, altering social boundaries. While it is important to remember the past, it is also important to keep the present in mind.

As it states in the reading, many places of memory are intended to spur political action, overtly justifying the existing power relations or disrupting and reestablishing old ones. Whether this is the case or not, places and the meaning associated with these places are different for everyone. Everyone associates and perceives differently based on the emotion from experience and knowledge of a place, within a place, at a specific time in place. This is how memory creates the bridge between past and present.

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