The 2014-18 First World War centenary has been a unique period in which to consider the meaning and impact of state commemoration at the local, national and international levels. As it draws to a close in 2018, there will inevitably be an intensification of commemorative activity, and attention focused on evaluating the significance of the four-year period.
This research workshop focused on the experience of commemorative events and sites, activities that are more often examined from structural, official or historical viewpoints. It sought novel perspectives oriented alongside the individuals and groups who attend, design, and enact commemorative places and programs. Contributions attended to the anticipation, thoughts and emotions, knowledge, embodied and sensory perceptions, or processes of reflection that people engage in when they encounter environments weighted with commemorative state histories. We asked what effects these have in people’s lives, and how these experiences might be entangled with many other aspects of them. Also important was how these experiences ripple out to affect collective identities, as well as their political and institutional import. Contributions that consider methodologies for such research were also welcome.
The goal of this international and interdisciplinary workshop was to open up new ways to conceptualise commemoration, building on more traditional approaches that focus on historical representation, but going beyond this by arguing that commemorative events’ and sites’ messages are significantly reproduced, reinforced and redistributed experientially. This aspect, we argue, must be a vital part of how we understand these important state activities.
This, our first workshop, drew together participants from Australia, the UK, Belgium and France to present their approaches to experiences of commemoration. A position paper, research agenda and videos of the presentations will be available here soon.