Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age: Memorialization Unmoored [1st ed.] 9783030393946, 9783030393953

This volume explores the shifting tides of how political violence is memorialized in today's decentralized, digital

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Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xviii
Introduction: Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age—Memorialization Unmoored (David J. Simon, Eve Monique Zucker)....Pages 1-18
Memorialization in Rwanda: The Legal, Social, and Digital Constructions of the Memorial Narrative (Stephanie Wolfe)....Pages 19-44
Breaking the Silence: Memorialization and Cultural Repair in the Aftermath of the Armenian Genocide (Armen T. Marsoobian)....Pages 45-70
Let Them Speak: An Effort to Reconnect Communities of Survivors in a Digital Archive (Stephen Naron, Gabor Mihaly Toth)....Pages 71-94
(Re)Producing the Past Online: Oral History and Social Media–Based Discourse on Cambodian Performing Arts in the Aftermath of Genocide (Stephanie Khoury)....Pages 95-122
From the Material to the Digital: Reflections on Collecting and Exhibiting Grief at the 9/11 Memorial Museum (Alexandra Drakakis)....Pages 123-140
Teaching and Learning in Virtual Places of Exception: Gone GITMO and the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History (Cathlin Goulding)....Pages 141-173
The Slow Rise of Social Movement Organizations for Memorialization in Haiti: Lutte Contre Impunite, Devoire de Memoire-Haiti and Digitizing the Record on Atrocities (Henry F. (Chip) Carey)....Pages 175-196
“Rebuilding the Jigsaw of Memory”: The Discourse of Portuguese Colonial War Veterans’ Blogs (Verónica Ferreira)....Pages 197-223
Conclusion (David J. Simon, Eve Monique Zucker)....Pages 225-236
Back Matter ....Pages 237-246
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Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age Memorialization Unmoored Edited by Eve Monique Zucker David J. Simon

Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies Series Editors Andrew Hoskins University of Glasgow Glasgow, UK John Sutton Department of Cognitive Science Macquarie University Macquarie, Australia

The nascent field of Memory Studies emerges from contemporary trends that include a shift from concern with historical knowledge of events to that of memory, from ‘what we know’ to ‘how we remember it’; changes in generational memory; the rapid advance of technologies of memory; panics over declining powers of memory, which mirror our fascination with the possibilities of memory enhancement; and the development of trauma narratives in reshaping the past. These factors have contributed to an intensification of public discourses on our past over the last thirty years. Technological, political, interpersonal, social and cultural shifts affect what, how and why people and societies remember and forget. This groundbreaking new series tackles questions such as: What is ‘memory’ under these conditions? What are its prospects, and also the prospects for its interdisciplinary and systematic study? What are the conceptual, theoretical and methodological tools for its investigation and illumination? More information about this series at

Eve Monique Zucker  •  David J. Simon Editors

Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age Memorialization Unmoored

Editors Eve Monique Zucker Department of Anthropology Columbia University New York, NY, USA

David J. Simon Department of Political Science Yale University New Haven, CT, USA

Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies ISBN 978-3-030-39394-6    ISBN 978-3-030-39395-3 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: Michael Novelo / Alamy Stock Photo Cover design: eStudioCalamar This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

In memory of the victims of mass atrocities


This volume arose out of a conference we held in March of 2018, called “Memorialization Unmoored: The Virtualization of Material Mediums of Social Memory,” at Yale University. The conference, whose inspiration originally lay with the “Reflections in the Aftermath of War and Genocide” project and consortium, was hosted by the Yale Genocide Studies Program and sponsored by the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale and the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund. The chapters contained in the volume benefited from the many comments, suggestions, and other papers that were given on that day. In particular, we wish to thank the original participants who are not a part of this volume: Mary Fetchet, Diana Henry, Leora Kahn, Dennis Klein, and Taylor Krause. We would also like to thank Hira Jafri for her expert management of the event and continuous support. We also offer thanks to the anonymous reviewers of the volume, Holly Jackson for her editing skills, and Mala Sanghera-Warren and Bryony Burns at Palgrave Macmillan for their support and editorial guidance. Finally, we express our gratitude to our family members: Karl Malone, Sebastian Zucker-Malone, Saoirse Zucker-Malone, Heather Gerken, Anna Simon, and Ben Simon for their enduring patience and encouragement.



 Introduction: Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age—Memorialization Unmoored  1 David J. Simon and Eve Monique Zucker Memorialization and the State   3 Memorialization Unmoored from the State   4 Memorialization Unmoored from Physical Space   7 Memorialization Unmoored from Prevailing Ethical Norms   9 Overview of the Volume  12 Bibliography  16  Memorialization in Rwanda: The Legal, Social, and Digital Constructions of the Memorial Narrative 19 Stephanie Wolfe The Emergence of a New National Narrative  21 Legal Construction and Classification of Memorials  23 Social and Cultural Construction of Memorials  28 Memorialization Unmoored  32 Conclusion  35 Bibliography  42




 Breaking the Silence: Memorialization and Cultural Repair in the Aftermath of the Armenian Genocide 45 Armen T. Marsoobian Introduction  45 Conclusion  65 Bibliography  69 Let Them Speak: An Effort to Reconnect Communities of Survivors in a Digital Archive 71 Stephen Naron and Gabor Mihaly Toth Introducing Let Them Speak  71 From Community of Survivors to Community of Testimonies and Memories  73 Fortunoff Video Archive: A Community Project with an Ethical Approach  74 How LTS Works: Finding Connections, Commonalities, and Heterogeneity  77 Inclusion of the Voiceless  83 Making Testimonies Accessible: Past and Present  87 Conclusion: Avoiding Digital Inhumanities  89 Bibliography  94  (Re)Producing the Past Online: Oral History and Social Media–Based Discourse on Cambodian Performing Arts in the Aftermath of Genocide 95 Stephanie Khoury Of Forgetting and Remembrance  98 Online Archival Collections: Reconnecting the Past with the Present 102 Sociocultural Identity and Virtual Public Spaces on Social Media Sites  107 Concluding Remarks 115 Bibliography 120



 From the Material to the Digital: Reflections on Collecting and Exhibiting Grief at the 9/11 Memorial Museum123 Alexandra Drakakis Randolph Scott 126 Marisa DiNardo Schorpp 128 Avnish Ramanbhai Patel 134 Conclusion 137 Bibliography 138  Teaching and Learning in Virtual Places of Exception: Gone GITMO and the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History141 Cathlin Goulding Introduction: The First Glimpse 141 Locating Guantánamo in Virtual Place 143 Gone GITMO: Immersive Experiences in a Digital Place of Exception  145 The Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History: “Disturbing” the Narrative of the Place of Exception 158 Virtual Linkages to Suffering 167 Bibliography 170  The Slow Rise of Social Movement Organizations for Memorialization in Haiti: Lutte Contre Impunite, Devoire de Memoire-Haiti and Digitizing the Record on Atrocities175 Henry F. (Chip) Carey Memorialization in Haiti 177 Documenting and Digitizing Haiti’s Mass Atrocities 182 NGO Digitization Activities of Memorialization 183 Unfavorable Environment for Nongovernmental Actors 189 Conclusion 190 Bibliography 194



 “Rebuilding the Jigsaw of Memory”: The Discourse of Portuguese Colonial War Veterans’ Blogs197 Verónica Ferreira Introduction 197 Colonial War: The Mists of Memory 198 The Virtualized Memory of War 201 “(Re)constructing the Jigsaw of Memory”: War Veterans in the Blogipelago 205 The Tabancas 208 Fragments of Memory: Narratives and Visual Representations on the Blog 212 Final Considerations 218 Bibliography 221 Conclusion225 David J. Simon and Eve Monique Zucker Common Themes 226 Implications 231 Future Directions 234 Bibliography 236 Index237

Notes on Contributors

Henry  F.  (Chip)  Carey  is Associate Professor of Political Science at Georgia State University. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on democratization and human rights, and many articles and book chapters on Haiti. He has been editor of the Journal of International Organization Studies. His current projects include editing the forthcoming Understanding Peacebuilding Paradigms (Cambridge University Press); Understanding the Contemporary Caribbean (Lynne Rienner); Understanding Contemporary Latin America (Lynne Rienner); and a book chapter on United Nations Special Procedures on Clean Water and Sanitation, which includes an analysis of the Haiti cholera epidemic. Alexandra Drakakis  As Curator at the National September 11 Memorial Museum from 2007 to 2020, Alexandra worked to build the museum’s foundational collection of artifacts and has brought their stories to audiences through exhibitions, and educational and online initiatives. She authored “Michele Martocci’s Shoes: Escape from the Towers,” in The Stories They Tell: Artifacts from the National September 11 Memorial Museum (Skira Rizzoli, 2013), and coauthored forthcoming articles: “Depicting Perpetrators of Large-Scale Violence in Museums” and “Technology and Memorialization at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.” Alexandra currently serves on the Museum Association of New  York’s Board of Directors, and is Director of Collections Strategy at Madison Square Garden Company. Verónica Ferreira  is a PhD candidate currently working on her dissertation “Virtual Memories. Digital Representations of the Portuguese xiii


Notes on Contributors

Colonial War.” She is also a junior researcher affiliated to the Research Project “CROME – Crossed Memories. Politics of Silence. The Colonial-­ Liberation Wars in Postcolonial Times” (ERC-StG 715593), funded by the European Research Council, hosted by the Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal. Her research interests are political and media representations; gender studies; postcolonialism; and discourses about violence and digital memories. Cathlin Goulding  is a curriculum specialist and researcher of place, pedagogy, and historical violence. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the Journal of Cultural Research in Art Education, Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Journal of Public Pedagogies, Forum Journal, Hyphen, (Re) Constructing Memory: Education, Identity, and Conflict, and In 2017–2019, she was an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral research fellow at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and visiting scholar at New York University. Currently, she codirects Yuri, an education consulting firm that offers curriculum and teacher professional development on Asian American history and stories and teaches at Hunter College. Stephanie Khoury  draws on extensive fieldwork experience in mainland Southeast Asia, and with Southeast Asian diasporic communities in France and the United States, and analyzes the political, social, gendered, and artistic dimensions of Cambodian musical theater and its secularization in postcolonial, postwar, and migration contexts. In her research, she examines performing arts through the interrelated frameworks of religion, collective memory, social justice, and the concept of intangible heritage, with a particular interest in the cultural capital of digital sound and moving image archives of performing arts. Khoury is currently a lecturer in the Music Department at Tufts University, in the United States. Armen  T.  Marsoobian  is Professor and Chairperson of Philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University, editor of the journal Metaphilosophy, and First Vice President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars. He publishes in American Philosophy, aesthetics, moral philosophy, and genocide and memory studies, coediting seven books, most recently Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Genocide and Memory. His award-winning book, Fragments of a Lost Homeland: Remembering Armenia, and its companion volume, Reimagining a Lost Armenian Home: The Dildilian Photography Collection are based upon extensive research about his family and the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire.

  Notes on Contributors 


Exhibitions based on the collection were mounted in Turkey, Armenia, Great Britain, and the United States. Stephen Naron  has worked as an archivist/librarian since 2003, when he received his MSIS from the University of Texas, Austin. He pursued a Magister in Jewish studies at the Freie Universitaet Berlin and history at the Zentrum fuer Antisemistismusforschung, TU. He has a BA in History from the University of Kansas. As the director of the Fortunoff Archive, Stephen works within the wider research community to share access to our collection through the access site program and online consortia programs, as well as presenting at conferences, symposiums, and sessions of Yale University classes. Stephen is also responsible for spearheading initiatives such as digital preservation of the collection and a modern access system for the archive’s materials. David J. Simon  is the Director of the Genocide Studies Program at Yale University and holds the position of Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Yale. His research focuses on mass atrocity prevention and post-atrocity recovery, with a particular focus on African cases of mass atrocity, including those in Rwanda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Cote d’Ivoire. He has served as a consultant with the United Nations Office of the Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles. Gabor  Mihaly  Toth  graduated from the University of Oxford with a PhD in history. Gabor was a Gerda Henkel Fellow of the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC. After serving as a postdoctoral associate at Fortunoff Video Archive, Yale University, he spent a year as a fellow at USC Shoah Foundation. He is currently a research fellow at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Gabor’s main field of research is computerassisted analysis of historical texts. Stephanie  Wolfe  is an associate professor at Weber State University in Political Science. She holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Kent in Brussels with a focus on atrocities and their aftermath. Her research has led to the 2014 book The Politics of Reparations and Apologies, several book chapters on international law, reparations and apologies, and memory and memorialization of the Rwandan genocide. Eve Monique Zucker  focuses on the aftermath of mass violence through the lenses of social memory, morality, the imagination, and digital memo-


Notes on Contributors

rialization. She is author of Forest of Struggle: Moralities of Remembrance in Upland Cambodia. and coeditor of Coexistence in the Aftermath of Mass Violence: Imagination, Empathy, and Resilience (forthcoming  2020) as well as an edited volume on political violence in Southeast Asia (forthcoming). Eve is currently a lecturer at Columbia University’s Department of Anthropology, a research affiliate with the Yale Council for Southeast Asian Studies and the Cornell Southeast Asia Program, and is the Executive Vice President of the Center for Khmer Studies. She also  serves on the boards of the Yale Genocide Studies Program and the New York Southeast Asia Network. Eve holds a PhD in Anthropology from the London School of Economics.

List of Figures

Breaking the Silence: Memorialization and Cultural Repair in the Aftermath of the Armenian Genocide Fig. 1 Opening wall display with enlarged photograph of the surviving members of the Dildilian family 55 Fig. 2 Cover of exhibition booklet with the three Dildilian siblings 62 Let Them Speak: An Effort to Reconnect Communities of Survivors in a Digital Archive Fig. 1 KWIC view of search results Fig. 2 Visualization of testimonial fragments as leaves of a hierarchical tree

79 86

(Re)Producing the Past Online: Oral History and Social Media–Based Discourse on Cambodian Performing Arts in the Aftermath of Genocide Fig. 1 Top image retrieved from Twitter, #ItIsCambodiaCulture, on September 19, 2018. Note Decoly’s black-and-white postcard at the bottom, second from the left. Bottom image retrieved from Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen’s official Facebook page, where it was posted on June 5, 2016. Both texts state that the lkhon khol is Khmer. (Arranged by S. Khoury) 113



List of Figures

From the Material to the Digital: Reflections on Collecting and Exhibiting Grief at the 9/11 Memorial Museum Fig. 1 Recovered pocketbook, wallet, and receipt belonging to Marisa DiNardo / Collection 9/11 Museum, Gift of Ester DiNardo, Photo by Matt Flynn 129 Fig. 2 Screenshot of Avnish Patel’s blog 135 Teaching and Learning in Virtual Places of Exception: Gone GITMO and the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History Fig. 1 A torture chamber in Gone Gitmo (Weil 2008c, May 2). (Images related to Gone GITMO on Second Life and the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History are used with the consent of the project’s designers. See referenced citations for image source) Fig. 2 A portentous tweet on the museum’s Twitter account. (GuantanamoBayMuseum 2017)

155 169

The Slow Rise of Social Movement Organizations for Memorialization in Haiti: Lutte Contre Impunite, Devoire de Memoire-Haiti and Digitizing the Record on Atrocities Fig. 1 Devoire de Memoire’s Commemoration of the July 1964 Massacres of Peasants in Southeast Haiti. (Credit: Devoire de Memoire—Haiti Fig. 2 Jeremie memorial to the 27 Mullato victims of the August 1964 Massacre. (Photo Credit: Jean-Philippe Belleau)

188 191

“Rebuilding the Jigsaw of Memory”: The Discourse of Portuguese Colonial War Veterans’ Blogs Fig. 1 Print screen of the publication “Guiné 63/74 – P7198: O Soldado Africano Esquecido/Forgotten African Soldier (1): What can we do for our former Guinean colleagues? (Carlos Silva/Luís Graça/Paulo Santiago),” available at guine-6374-p7198-o-soldado-africano.html211

Introduction: Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age—Memorialization Unmoored David J. Simon and Eve Monique Zucker

In the wake of mass violence, societies seek to memorialize the tragedies of the past. They may do so to demonstrate respect for lives damaged or lost, to project resolve, to prevent the recurrence of such events, or to establish narratives of heroism, victimhood, and blame. Typically, the state has led such efforts, lending its authority to each of these tasks in public discourses and spaces. In recent years, the acceleration of two interlinked trends have set adrift the collective memory of war and other episodes of violence from its traditional form: first, an expansion of non-state memorialization efforts, and second, a turn to memorialization in the digital realm. New technologies have created ubiquitous access to virtual space, opening new dimensions D. J. Simon (*) Department of Political Science, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA e-mail: [email protected] E. M. Zucker Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 E. M. Zucker, D. J. Simon (eds.), Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




and opportunities for challenging state-sponsored memorialization. They have done so by permitting the reinterpretation and reinvention of the past and the present, and by facilitating non-state (and often counter-­ state) narrative-producing projects. The state and its allies may avail themselves of the new opportunities that new technologies present. Many of the forms of digital memorials on virtual spaces or those created through digital means are not only nationalistic but may also attempt to silence voices that run counter to the narrative they wish to promote or protect. As a result of these relatively new mediums and tools available, the human impulse to memorialize in the wake of mass violence is undergoing a transformation. Digital tools and the internet have made the past is now more present in the present than ever before. Non-state actors, including private citizens, have greater latitude to create publicly accessible sites of memory. While private citizens continue to create physical memorials, such as those on the street corners in Paris after the 2015 bombings or the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh after the 2018 massacre, new forms of memorialization are taking place online and in virtual spaces. Some of these new virtual memorial sites scarcely exist in the physical world aside from a few square millimeters of physical space in a vast server farm in an undisclosed, unimportant location. And yet the images, documents, photos, and the narratives and debates that accompany the online memorial sites are at once available to everyone everywhere, rendering traditional memorialization’s geographic constraints obsolete. Moreover, virtual memorialization can collapse the passage of time, bringing the voices of the past to ‘life’ (such as through interactive holograms), or re-creating past times and places in virtual worlds interactively accessible in the present.1 Freed from the constraints of physicality, state control, and a consensus about what a ‘memorial’ ought to be, the meaning of wars, atrocities, human rights violations, and social movements is being recontested or simply rewritten through a myriad of technology mediums. Therefore, as Patrick Hutton (2016) notes: “The relationship between past memory and present perception is reconceived as emergent rather than as retrospective.” The past, once curated, contained, and circumscribed in the public domain, is now being reassembled in novel forms and formulations through ever-growing digital capabilities that are employed by a multitude of actors. Memorialization, therefore, once the purview of the state and typically consisting of tangible, physical places and objects, has, in the ‘digitocene’ era (Boellstorff 2016, 397), become unmoored.



This manuscript focuses on some of the ways in which memorialization is being unmoored from its traditional forms and mediums, bringing to the surface new memories and testimonies, framing others, creating previously impossible assemblages, and eclipsing preconceived notions of what memorialization ‘ought’ to be. The unmooring is an ambiguous process—suspectable to dangers, opportunities, and uncertain outcomes. How is memorialization reimagined, in what form, and by whom? What are the normative rules that guide it? These are only some of the questions that emerge through these chapters with many more to follow.

Memorialization and the State Memorialization in its traditional form is a state project. From war memorials to memorials for tragic events or difficult times, the state has traditionally memorialized its past through commemorative statues, museums, monuments, paintings, and other similarly physical mediums. These mediums provide a site or a locality for the construction of collective narratives shared within communities, lending credence to a collectively shared imagined past. As Maurice Halbwachs recognized, commemoration has the power to revive histories and traditions by providing form and substance to the collective memory (Halbwachs 1992, 204–205). Mnemonic objects or places connected to commemoration practices work to shape and maintain the prevailing narrative. Hutton (1988, 315), thus, observes that “through commemoration, collective memory receives an anchor from which it cannot easily drift.” This anchor is reinforced through the physical memorial that serves as a reminder of “the deep traditions of a community that might otherwise be modified over time, as impressions of the past grow vague and drift into oblivion” (ibid.). In memorializing mass violence and genocide, the accompanying narrative usually assumes a moral tone. Consider, for example, state-­sponsored Holocaust museums that opened in Washington, Berlin, and Jerusalem. These museums remind people of the vitality of the culture and individual lives that flourished before the Nazi regime, and what became of these individuals and communities during and after the Holocaust. By telling the historical story of the Holocaust, these institutions each imply the cautionary tale that social and political dynamics that led to the Holocaust are unfortunately replicable, and that therefore humanity must stand vigilant against the reemergence of such ideas and circumstances. Each also makes a statement of national values to the effect of: this country (i.e., the



United States, Germany, or Israel, respectively) defines itself as a tolerant, pluralist society that will resist fascism and genocide as a matter of national fabric. Therefore, the story of the Holocaust becomes a testament to the moral fiber and character of the nation. While this view seemed rational or even self-evident in the shadow of World War II, it has since been complicated by a plethora of developments that have occurred since. These developments include the greater awareness of the complicity of democracies in numerous onerous events in history, blatant inequality, structural violence, and support (tacit or direct) of wars and mass killings worldwide. In addition, the increasingly sophisticated and accessible technologies allowing for the extraction, reinterpretation, reinventing, sharing, or disseminating of  information concerning past events have disrupted binary notions and narratives of good and evil, promulgating an understanding that there are no absolutes, but just one truth among many. Through this turbulence, states and their citizens continue, of course, to erect new monuments crafted out of visions of the ideal; however, it is an ideal that has been complicated by the frictional forces of inclusivity and tradition.

Memorialization Unmoored from the State State-driven memorialization has long been subject to challenges to its form or content. The recent toppling of Confederate memorials in the American South reflects an effort to counter a narrative, propagated in (and since) the post-reconstruction era in the South, that the Confederate cause was a noble one.2 That campaign echoes an enduring tradition that includes the removal, by postcolonial states, of statues commemorating the sacrifices and services of colonial troops and administrators.3 Similarly, European states and citizens grappled with the legacy of monuments and memorials erected by prewar and wartime fascist regimes: Norway elected to bury a monument lauding Norway’s Aryan roots that Vidkun Quisling’s fascist National Union (Nasjonal Samling) had erected (Fagerland and Hjorth 2016), and in turn, both the occupying forces immediately after the war, and German citizens in the 1970s destroyed German memorials to the Nazi hero figure Albert Schlageter.4 Yet the state is not the only force in efforts to rewrite history. Ordinary citizens less patient with history have taken it upon themselves not only to demand that states redefine the narrative history, but have also taken action themselves either by physically removing memorials or by creating



‘counter memorials’ that are designed to be impermanent or that contest the legitimacy of traditional memorials in other ways online and offline. Unmoored from state control, myriad possibilities emerge. Private citizens may seek to propagate a countervailing narrative, such as memorials to unsung heroes, criticism of dominant versions of a past event, and the resurrection of stories, myths, and events once thought buried. They may seek to reinforce the state’s efforts and perspective, perhaps unmoored from the responsibilities to respect international consensus about a particular historical episode, or norms about pluralism and inclusivity. For example, the Facebook site “WWI Remembered” seeks to “keep alive the memories of all those who fell and make sure that such a mistake cannot be made again.”5 It includes photos, reviews, and discussions about films on World War I, provides information about state and other World War I memorial activities, and generally serves as a forum for exchanging memories and thoughts on the war. Similarly, Facebook memorials like the Khao I Dang Refugee Camp Facebook page6 support remembrance for the refugees from the Khmer Rouge period who share photos and memories or solicit help in locating missing persons. However, a pro–Khmer Rouge collection of video footage on YouTube7 reveals that the intent of a private memorialization effort need not, in fact, dovetail with the prerogatives of the state, or with international norms. The site includes, for instance, nationalist videos featuring Khmer Rouge songs, Pol Pot, and Khmer Rouge  agriculture, industry, and education projects. Although the latest video is dated in 2015, comments on the videos, reflecting a wide range of reactions, indicate continued interaction with the YouTube channel. These types of sites of nostalgia for murderous movements echo their material counterparts in motivation; however, they differ substantially in that their accessibility extends far beyond a closed circle of like minds. Rather, they exist openly and are fully accessible on the web inviting audiences on a scale inconceivable in the offline world. Fictitious identities allow for active engagement with the sites and the further dissemination of the materials through the sharing tools on social media platforms. In addition to these public sites, there are almost certainly also nonpublic ‘closed groups’ that memorialize genocidal leaders and regimes and where in-person gatherings may be secretly organized. The establishment of meetings derived through online communities is not of course limited to commemorating genocidal movements. It also can bring together people who share a view of the past that may not be in line with the state but is not nefarious in nature. This connection between



social media sites and actual world gatherings is taken up by Verónica Ferreira (chapter “‘Rebuilding the Jigsaw of Memory’: The Discourse of Portuguese Colonial  War Veterans’ Blogs”), who details the emergent contestation of the history of Portugal’s war among former soldiers who fought in the colonial wars in Africa during the 1960s and early 1970s. Local or non-state memorials challenge the once-presumptive monopoly that the state held on memory and memorializing. No longer is the interpretation of the past solely dictated in history books and official monuments. Indeed, memory, as argued by Andrew Hoskins, becomes no longer collective but becomes connected through the widespread use of mobile technology that provides immediate access to near limitless information (Hoskins 2011). Individuals, activists, and communities may creatively assemble new, or recover previously banished, narratives and memories as they collect images, stories, and documentation—all of which are often readily available on online archives and databases and from other online individuals who share their personal memorabilia and experiences. These sites offer forums for discussions, a space for sharing memories, and a place for meeting other survivors and individuals with shared experiences or interest in the memorial project. ‘Unmoored’ memorials can then counter narratives directly, challenging and subverting the state representations. They may achieve this by revealing documents that contest or delegitimize the official narrative, by offering evidence for a different accounting of an event, by assembling a community that openly rejects state versions of the past, or perhaps by making the state narrative appear uninteresting, or irrelevant. The propagation of alternative versions to the one the state promotes challenges the authoritative status of the latter. The dilution of ‘truth’ through its many competing representations of historical events that are promulgated by various interests may result in ‘web wars’ as each seeks to establish itself as the hegemonic authority of a past event (e.g., Rutten and Zvereva 2013). The possibility that the internet could be used, for example, to propagate denialist views regarding the Holocaust or the Armenian genocide—and, indeed, could be facilitating the expansion of denial propaganda—has long been recognized by scholars and extremist voices alike. As Karen Mock (2000, 141) noted 20 years ago, [t]he global reach and relative ease of use of the Internet make it a unique and highly effective tool for the promotion of human rights, enabling unprecedented audiences previously unexposed to human rights education



to gain access to valuable information. Unfortunately, the features that make the Internet an asset to democracy and the realization of human rights, are the very characteristics that also render it an efficient and thereby dangerous tool for promoting hatred against identifiable minority groups.

The expansion of extremism and denial since then is readily apparent. The alternative right activist, Chuck C.  Johnson, used the platforms Twitter (his account is now blocked) and Reddit to disseminate Holocaust denial, although he later claimed he was simply testing the boundaries of the platforms.8 The use of Holocaust denial or other such speech has been a pivotal issue for Facebook, and Mark Zuckerberg in particular, who initially tried to defend such speech as unintentional.9 More positively, the same dimensions of the internet can facilitate responses to denialism, evinced, for example, in the nearly 80 ripostes to specific Holocaust denialist claims assembled for public reference at Emory University’s Center for Digital Scholarship site, “Debunking Holocaust Denial.”10 The online world also offers virtual museums such as the Armenian Genocide Museum11 or access to government documents that support rather than suppress the memory such as a Joint House and Senate Hearing on the denial of the Armenian Genocide.12

Memorialization Unmoored from Physical Space Meanwhile, the virtual world allows for new configurations of analysis, mass reproduction of information and images, tracking, and a multitude of other capabilities that radically change the presentation, access, and potentially content of digital artifacts, testimonies, and documents. The virtual world, and its ever-increasing sophistication, presents further challenges to long-standing assumptions about memorials while opening up possibilities for reinterpreting the past in ways previously impossible. The digital realm contains many forms of technology; however, we limit the discussion to those addressed in this volume. Beginning with the more traditional forms of digital media, these include digital photographs, film, and other digitized recordings. Photographs, film, and recordings are transformed into digitized binary code as they are transformed into digital media. This transference renders them as ‘ontologically’ (if we can apply this term to material objects) different than in their material state. In their digital form, they are easily altered, reproduced, and combined. While “photography transformed the subject into an object, and even, one



might say into a museum object” (Barthes 1980, 13), “photography in the digital environment involves the reconfiguration of the image into a mosaic of millions of changeable pixels” rather than “a continuous tone imprint of visible reality” (Ritchin 2010, 18). The digital photographer then “potentially plays a postmodern visual disc jockey” (ibid.). As a template to be mixed and altered—photography, film, and recordings all join to become infinite forms of multimedia which does not represent the sum of its parts but rather employs the parts to convey meanings, potentially vastly remote from the original subject of one of the particular media. As Hutton observes: “All genres of media are recognized as coeval in their capacity for mobilization” (Hutton 2016).13 A second digital domain within which the unmooring takes place is through social media—sometimes referred to as “Web 2.0”—whether that be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, or any other online platform where users post and share information and communicate with one another. Social media has created the means to communicate with other people instantaneously with no geographical constraints and using a wide range of representations including voice, text, images, and video. Material may be drawn to convey a message or representation from a nearly infinite number of choices that are available over the web. Moreover, as the embedded, automatic translators within these platforms improve, even language becomes less of an impediment to expanded accessibility. A third form are the online databases and archives that are mushrooming through state-led initiatives or private institutions. In their digitized form, they are no longer simply repositories and preserves of historical material, but rather a dynamic resource of pasts available in the present all the time (Hutton 2016), which can be gathered and reconfigured into a myriad of collages and stories. Fourth, there are virtual mediums of memory such as holographs, virtual worlds in online games, and virtual localities. The distinction between the so-called virtual world and ‘actual world’ is rapidly collapsing due to the overlapping and fusion through augmented reality (such as Waze, Pokémon, and much more sophisticated augmented and mixed systems that may be used together with holograms and virtual reality platforms). Online games and virtual reality are now places where people interact, do business, conduct research, and socialize, explore, and create. They are no longer distinct from actual life. For example, several 9/11 memorials were erected in Second Life, a 3-D online virtual world similar to “massively multiplayer online role-playing games” (MMORPGs)



that was launched by the software company Linden Lab in 2003.14 Goulding’s contribution to this volume (chapter “Teaching and Learning in Virtual Places of Exception: Gone GITMO and the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History”) presents a more complex illustration of the virtual memorialization in Second Life, describing a virtual museum devoted to the Guantánamo Bay prison camp and the human rights abuses alleged to have occurred there. Finally, there is the employment of artificial intelligence (AI) that may be used to analyze large sets of data, mobilize the interactive behavior of holograms, and present data in images in novel configurations. Beginning with data analysis, AI radically expands the scope of historical and testimonial data to be analyzed and considered and presents new ways of amalgamating sources to produce new narratives. However, as is evident from Naron and Toth’s contribution to this volume (chapter “Let Them Speak: An Effort to Reconnect Communities of Survivors in a Digital Archive”), AI can also isolate fragments of sources, placing them into new ‘communities’ of meaning. AI is also employed to bring holographic genocide survivors into dialogic interaction with visitors through sophisticated coding that makes the hologram responsive to questions in a manner that appears like an actual encounter. Moreover, AI in allowing for the assimilation of images, sound, text, and video is capable of producing novel assemblages of media that may convey multiple meanings in its various configurations.

Memorialization Unmoored from Prevailing Ethical Norms Finally, memorialization may now find itself unmoored from institutional ethics. Two distinct elements of memorializing victims of the Holocaust illustrate possible challenges to the presumptive ethical assumptions about memorialization. First, consider the Shoah Foundation’s creation of virtual hologram images of Holocaust survivors that simulate an interactive experience. There, survivors attain a degree of immortality as hologram technology permits a reembodied version of themselves to tell their story and even, through artificial intelligence, answer questions posed by viewers interacting with the hologram. Whether these hologramatic impersonations are richer versions of single dimensional testimony or dehumanizing technological displays is an ethical question however, the answer to which



depends on the context in which the technology is presented. Moreover, the reception these holograms receive is decentralized as well. Rather than dimly lit, austere, near-sacred public memorial, where docents and security guards are quick to enforce norms of respectful behavior, the hologram might be projected (literally) directly into a school environment in which matters of decorum may be at the mercy of the social dynamics of the classroom. On a recent trip to the Jewish Heritage Museum in New York City, the authors witnessed a generally well-behaved group of two-dozen or so high school students, interacting with a hologram projection of a Holocaust survivor that had been enabled, through advanced programming, to respond directly to students’ questions. The technology itself captivated many of the students, and most engaged with the hologram facsimile of the survivor as respectfully as one might a person in the flesh. Yet, perhaps inevitably, a small portion of the group smirked, teased, and flirted with one another as the hologram recounted ‘his’ harrowing tale of survival. Decorum at memorial sites is also challenged by the rise of social media and the emergence of the ‘selfie.’ Here, perhaps more starkly, the appearance of the railroad tracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau as a backdrop for selfie photographs then displayed on Instagram15 illustrates for social media has changed people’s sense and expectation of decorum around such memorial sites. The virtual memorial project: “Anne Frank. A Cold Case Diary” ( offers a second glimpse into the possibilities of artificial intelligence combined with social media platforms. The Cold Case Diary is a project developed by production company and a former FBI agent. The project aims to solve the mystery of who reported Anne Frank and her family to the Nazis, leading to their death at BergenBelsen. Using social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and a weblog) to solicit records relating to the case, the project employs AI to scan and analyze vast numbers of documents from multiple sources such as online state or private archives, police records, national archives (Amsterdam and the United States), Gestapo lists, property records, lists of Nazi sympathizers, and other records.16 The project invites public participation by actively seeking leads on their website and also using crowdfunding. Unlike state memorial narratives, this narration is not moored to a definitive final story (although there is now a book publication deal), but rather to a dynamic, ever-changing narration as long as the project continues. The Cold Case Diary thus puts the story of Anne Frank adrift into the



interactive sea where it bumps, collides, and swirls in vast pools of documents and stories from the period. Significantly, through this storm new findings have emerged, including new stories about Anne Frank and her family as well as previously unknown stories about other people who had perished during the Holocaust whose details surfaced as a result of the project. What effect do these stories have on the descendants of those families whose death tales have now been revealed? What might it have on the families and communities of perpetrators perhaps hidden from history heretofore? What other new cases might emerge and stories that might be told, and how might this ultimately change our view of history and of ourselves? More generally, the availability of testimony and archival documents democratizes opportunities to trace violent pasts; yet, there is also a possibility that the information gathered could be manipulated, or used inappropriately, whether as a matter of distaste or in the service of some political objective. White supremacists, Jihadi terrorists, Stalin, or Khmer Rouge apologists, Holocaust deniers, and other groups driven by hate or political agendas are well known for these tactics. Their ability to assemble narratives and images and disseminate them broadly is that much easier now in the age of virtual memorialization. However, the accessibility to vast amounts of documents, records, and information about the past— sometimes placed for benign or even noble purposes, can easily, or even accidentally, lead to uncertain impacts. For instance, individuals might learn something about their own or someone else’s past, which may compromise their concept of their own or someone else’s identity. Moreover, information or images could be handled in an exploitative, harmful, or disrespectful way—or even, as in the case of photos of prisoners of the Khmer Rouge prison and torture center Tuol Sleng (also known as S-21), sold as stock photos over the internet (Libson 2018). Thus, alongside the benefits of memorialization through digital mediums then, we also see several challenges arise. First, while digitized information is durable, it is also malleable. The ease with which digital data may be manipulated allows for the construction of false narratives, seeding doubt as to the veracity of digitized data. State actors are proving increasingly adept at using digital media for social control, as witnessed in China’s negation of the Tiananmen Square protests (Griffiths 2019), or several African countries’ efforts to criminalize dissent on social media (Conroy-­ Krutz 2019). Moreover, the digital medium allows for navigation of materials in a manner that may dehumanize the testimonies or photos of



survivors through multiple abstractions or forced categorization that leave gaps in meaning; through easily manipulatable platforms; or through instrumentalization by states, groups, or individuals. Issues of authenticity and ownership become central through these processes.

Overview of the Volume The chapters in this volume originated from papers presented at a March 2018 symposium Memorialization Unmoored: The Virtualization of Material Mediums of Social Memory hosted by the Yale Genocide Studies Program and sponsored by the Reflections in the Aftermath of War and Genocide Consortium. A group of over a dozen scholars representing multiple disciplines convened to discuss cases of memorialization pertaining to four different continents, and several different dimensions of the ‘unmooring’ of memorialization. In addition to the theme of ‘unmooring’ that framed the gathering initially, several additional cross-cutting themes emerged. The binary opposites, silencing and amplification, are manifest in several of the papers. Certain historical memories may be amplified through state or local memorialization efforts through the newfound availability of virtual archives and databases and the proliferation of digital media that allows for high speed and expansive sharing. These virtual and digital forms inscribe new interest, meanings, and discourses on physical monuments and sites. Rather than these meanings being tethered to the monument, instead the monument in a sense is sent adrift in potentially multiple directions by the ebbs and flows of the virtual sea. Stephanie Wolfe illustrates both the practice and promise of unmooring memorialization from state control. She describes how the project of the memorialization of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda evolved first from a haphazard, local effort to a state-directed program focusing on a limited number of sites, featuring intense “state interest and control over corresponding narratives.” Yet even with an elaborate legal framework, Wolfe notes, Rwandans’ social and cultural experiences with genocide memorials often transcend state prescriptions. When survivors find state dictates limiting, they can either push for legal changes, or simple engage in what could be considered a form of passive resistance: creating their own meaning as they see fit regardless of the constraints placed upon practice by the state. Wolfe explores the shaping of narratives of the genocide through legal, administrative, artistic, and digital memorialization.



The chapter by Armen T. Marsoobian illustrates one way in which the unmooring of memorialization from state control is not only valuable, but perhaps essential, as a matter of directly confronting the genocidal project itself. The state, in this case the Turkish state, bans recognition of the Armenian genocide—a stance consistent with the aims of the genocide itself, namely to eliminate a people and its culture from Anatolia, if not from earth. The Republic of Armenia has certainly been prominent in its own right, in terms of its efforts to acknowledge the genocide, recognize its victims, and preserve Armenian cultural heritage. But even those stately acts cannot tell how individuals, families, and communities lived before the genocide, and what was attacked—and lost—from it the way that personal archives, of photographs in particular, can. Marsoobian displays the challenges of making public a private archive amid a contentious international environment. Stephen Naron and Gabor Mihaly Toth describe how digital technologies allow an archive of Holocaust testimonies, itself a non-state memorialization project, to create a virtual ‘community’ of survivors even after those survivors have passed away. Using text and data-mining to code words, sentence fragments, and narrative themes, they make possible the recognition of otherwise hidden commonalities of experience. These commonalities, in turn, help to shed light on the Holocaust as it happened in the big picture, to construct, in richer detail, the context in which individual narratives exist, and may even allow for the construction of narratives for those who never had the chance to tell their own story, but whose contextual experience is broadly known. These commonalities offer the potential to appreciate what the testifier may have left out, for any number of reasons. Understandably, the project implicates significant ethical challenges, which Naron and Toth discuss in detail. Stephanie Khoury demonstrates how memorialization has become unmoored: first, through a non-state online archive of Cambodian classical dance featuring video interviews with three generations of Khmer performers; and second, through the sharing of images and video featuring Khmer classical performative art on social media platforms. These two forms of digital media have elicited the resurgence in interest, and a democratization in access, to these art forms once limited to the royal court and later banned by the Khmer Rouge. The database composed of video testimonies and housed at the New York Library is itself a non-state memorial to the classical dancers, musicians, and performers that perished under the Khmer Rouge regime.



Alexandra Drakakis’s chapter focuses on the curation and display of material and digital traces of the lives lost when the twin towers in New York City were the target of a terror attack in September of 2001. Using four specific examples of the museum’s curation of artifacts connected to the individuals who perished in the attack, Drakakis shows how personal items and digital images convey not just a specific story about the victims—that is, who they were, and what they were doing when their lives were tragically cut short—but also a more general one surrounding the continued impact of the terror attack on Americans’ psyche for years after the day it happened. Here, digital memorialization is within the purview of the state; however, the selection and display of the images at the same time seeks to remember the individuals in a manner that is sensitive to the families and loved ones of the victims. Cathlin Goulding shifts our focus to sites of state violence as represented through online websites and web-based platforms such as ‘Second Life,’ a 3-D online virtual world. That is, the real space of Guantanamo Prison as it is imagined in virtual reality first as a site within an online game, and also as a plausible (and yet fabricated) tourist destination in the future. While not yet an actual memorial site in the present, both of these cases render the physical Guantanamo as an object of contemplation and education. Goulding demonstrates how memorial sites are in some sense made real through their reinvention in the virtual world where they are encountered, considered, and experienced in ways that are impossible in the material world. The experience is designed to educate the user, as is the other case considered by Goulding—the virtual tourist site the Guantanamo Bay Museum. The museum site presents Guantanamo as it might be in the future, as a museum and a tourist destination. The site, like other memorial museum websites, provides visitors with information with which to plan their visit to Guantanamo as a tourist attraction. Unlike the game that beckons players to learn about Guantanamo through a gaming platform, the museum website paints a veneer of reality. Visitors with limited knowledge of Guantanamo may enter the site believing it is a legitimate tourist destination. Each of these platforms invites the user to consider Guantanamo from different perspectives that open up ways of imagining the site and the experiences of those who are held within its walls. The following two chapters focus more on the use of social media to remember and contest official memories and/or amnesia of the violence of the past. Henry Carey explains how nongovernmental organizations have taken a lead in memorializing victims of atrocities that occurred



during the Duvalier administrations. He describes the immense challenges facing such efforts in a country beset by poverty, poor governance, and suspicion of nongovernmental actors. On the other hand, Verónica Ferreira’s chapter studies the online discourse on weblogs and platforms  that memorialize the experiences of Portuguese soldiers who fought in the Portuguese Colonial War on the African continent. Through uploaded digitized photographs and memorabilia, the sites and their contributors create narratives of the war experience and also challenge the public silence on the topic. Ferreira describes how war veterans’ memories, published on blogs, serve to “form a collective narrative from the fragments of their individual memories.” The result is a humanizing of the war experience—albeit replete with reflections of inherent national, racial, and gender-based power differentials—more than a celebration of it. Taken together, the chapters illustrate the ongoing shift in the practice, ethics, and understandings of memorialization and the collective memory of war, genocide, and mass violence. They remind us that memorialization is a dynamic process, not to be confined by the mores and institutional assumptions of a given era. This issue, therefore, may also illuminate both opportunities for stronger, more affirmative responses to past trauma, as well as potential arenas of continued social conflict.

Notes 1. For example,  the platform Second Life features a virtual rendition of Germany during Kristallnacht at the “Holocaust Memorial Museum” site accessible at See also Draxtor (2017) for a video discussion of how Second Life hosts a virtual rendition of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. 2. For an extended discussion of the long path of narrative creation, revision, and forgetting, see Benjamin Forest and Juliet Johnson. “Confederate monuments and the problem of forgetting.” Cultural Geographies 26, no. 1 (2019): 127–131. 3. See for example, the removal of a statue honoring King Leopold of Belgium from a public square in Kinshasa: Robert Aldrich. “Commemorating Colonialism in a Post-Colonial World” E-rea [En ligne], 10.1 | 2012, mis en ligne le 20 Décembre 2012, consulté le 28 Octobre 2018. URL. 4. 5. h t t p s : / / w w w. f a c e b o o k . c o m / p g / w w 1 r e m e m b e r e d p a g e / posts/?ref=page_internal



6. See for example KhaoIDangRefugeeCampThailand/ 7. See for example UCGag_gDJ1GrOKnHSxoDT6Vw 8. The full quote taken from The Daily Beast: “I do not and never have believed the six million figure,” Johnson posted on Reddit in 2017. “I think the Red Cross numbers of 250,000 dead in the camps from typhus are more realistic. I think the Allied bombing of Germany was a war crime. I agree with David Cole about Auschwitz and the gas chambers not being real.” Will Sommer, The Daily Beast, Jan. 17, 2919. 9. Holocaust Denial, Southern Poverty Law Center https://www.splcenter. org/fightinghate/extremist-files/ideology/holocaust-denial 10. Deborah Lipstadt. 2019.“Debunking Holocaust Denial, Holocaust Denial On Trial” 11. 12. Joint House and Senate Hearing, 114 Congress, “A Century of Denial: the Armenian Genocide and the Ongoing Quest for Justice”, Apr. 23, 2015, html/CHRG-114jhrg95113.htm 13. Hutton Patric. H. (2016). 14. See (accessed on October 28, 2019). Seven such memorials were cataloged in the Second Life news blog, “Second Life Newser” on September 11, 2015 (http://slnewser., accessed on October 28, 2019). 15. Sarah Hucal, “When a Selfie Goes Too Far: How Holocaust Memorial Sites around Europe Combat Social Media Disrespect.” ABC News online, March 30, 2019, accessed at selfie-holocaust-memorial-sites-eur ope-combat-social-media/ story?id=62025268 on October 20, 2019. 16., accessed January 20, 2020. See also

Bibliography Albert Leo Schlageter. 2019. En.Wikipedia.Org. Albert_Leo_Schlageter Aldrich, Robert. Commemorating Colonialism in a Post-Colonial World. E-rea [En ligne], 10.1.2012, mis en ligne le 20 décembre 2012, consulté le 10



novembre 2019. https://doi. org/10.4000/erea.2803 Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial. www.ArmenianGenocideMuseum. org. Accessed 10 Nov 2019. Barthes, Roland. 1980. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New  York: Hill and Wang. Boellstorff, Tom. 2016. For Whom the Ontology Turns: Theorizing the Digital Real. Current Anthropology 57(4): 387–407. https://www.journals.uchicago. edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/687362 Conroy-Krutz, Jeffrey. 2019. “African governments are cracking down on the news media. Their citizens might be okay with that.” Washington Post. Online, May13, 2019. african-governments-are-cracking-down-news-media-their-citizens-might-beokay-with-that/, accessed January 28, 2020. Democratic Kampuchea. 2019. Draxtor. 2017. The Drax Files: World Makers [Episode 46: Gone Gitmo 10th Anniversary], September 19. watch?v=Fk9dMYxOE6A. Accessed 30 Oct 2019. Fagerland, Tor Einar, and Ingeborg Hjorth. 2016. From Patriotic to Transnational Memory Reflections on the Memorial Landscape of Norway ca. 1990–2014. Heritage, Democracy and the Public: Nordic Approaches, Part 3. Forest, Benjamin, and Juliet Johnson. 2019. Confederate Monuments and the Problem of Forgetting. Cultural Geographies 26 (1): 127–131. Griffiths, James. 2019. “World marks 30 years since Tiananmen massacre as China censors all mention.” CNN. Online, June 4, 2019. https://www.cnn. com/2019/06/03/asia/tiananmen-june-4-china-censorship-intl/index. html, accessed January 28, 2020. Halbwachs, Maurice. 1992 (1941). On Collective Memory. Trans. L.  Coser. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Holocaust Denial. 2019. Southern Poverty Law Center. https://www.splcenter. org/fighting.hate/extremist-files/ideology/holocaust-denial Hoskins, Andrew. 2011. 7/7 and Connective Memory: Interactional Trajectories of Remembering in Post-Scarcity Culture. Memory Studies 4(3): 269–280. jmt0RFITfmusdrPxo/edit Hucal, Sarah. 2019. When a Selfie Goes Too Far: How Holocaust Memorial Sites Around Europe Combat Social Media Disrespect. ABC News Online, March 30, 2019. Accessed on 20 Oct 2019. Hutton, Patrick H. 1988. Collective Memory and Collective Mentalities: The Halbwachs-Ariés Connection. Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques 15(2): 311–322.



Hutton P.H. 2016. Cultural Memory: From the Threshold of Literacy to the Digital Age. In The Memory Phenomenon in Contemporary Historical Writing. New  York: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi-org.ezproxy.cul.columbia. edu/10.1057/978-1-137-49466-5_4 Joint House and Senate Hearing, 114 Congress. A Century of Denial: The Armenian Genocide and the Ongoing Quest for Justice, April 23, 2015. CHRG-114jhrg95113.htm Khao I Dang Refugee Camp. 2019. Facebook.Com. https://www.facebook. com/KhaoIDangRefugeeCampThailand/ Libson, Quinn. 2018. Stock Photo Agencies Cash in on Khmer Rouge Tragedy. Phnom Penh Post, April 23. Mock, Karen. 2000. “Hate on the Internet.” In Human rights and the Internet (pp. 141–152). London: Palgrave Macmillan. Ritchin, Fred. 2010. After Photography. New York: W.W. Norton. Rutten, Ellen, and Vera Zvereva. 2013. Introduction. In Memory, Conflict and New Media: Web Wars in Post-Socialist States, ed. Fedor Rutton and Zereva. London/New York: Routledge. Shuftan, Bixyl. 2019. 9/11 Memorials in Second Life. Slnewser.Blogspot.Com. The Cold Case Team Diary. 2019. Coldcasediary.Com. Veix, Joe. 2019. Exploring the Digital Ruins of Second Life – Digg. Digg.Com. Who Betrayed Anne Frank? Retired FBI Agent Heads Team Trying to Solve Mystery. 2019. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. world/2017/11/19/Anne-Frank-Vince-Pankoke-Retired-FBI-agentinvestigation-World-War-II-mystery/stories/201711190014 Youtube.

Memorialization in Rwanda: The Legal, Social, and Digital Constructions of the Memorial Narrative Stephanie Wolfe

In 1994, Rwanda was ravaged by a brutal genocide. Over the course of 100 days approximately 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus were killed.1 Virtually every social institution was destroyed and discredited. Tutsi and moderate Hutus holding leadership roles were often the first targeted for elimination, along with their families. At the same time, many Hutus in leadership positions joined the ranks of the killers and influenced others within the communities to take up arms.2 The genocide ended with the defeat of the extremist regime by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in July of 1994; in the aftermath, the RPF would assume leadership of the country (Longman 2017, 3).3 As Rwanda attempts to come to terms with the past, a heavy emphasis is placed on sites of memory, spoken words, and on focusing national and international attention on the concept of “never again.”4 The post-genocide government, in conjunction with survivors, has been heavily involved

S. Wolfe (*) Weber State University, Ogden, UT, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 E. M. Zucker, D. J. Simon (eds.), Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




with overseeing the emergent narrative and guiding the burial and mourning practices throughout the country.5 This is not unusual, as national memorials, genocide education processes, and commemoration activities around the world have attempted to do the same in recognition of various state atrocities. What is unique is how ubiquitous Rwandan memorials and commemorations are, and the strictures that surround their observance. As memorial sites developed, and commemoration ceremonies evolved, so has the state interest and control over the corresponding narratives. Starting approximately ten years after the genocide, legislation would be crafted to determine what should be included in memorials, governmental officials would begin to influence the narratives being discussed at home and abroad, and the history of the country would be displayed through official mourning practices and preserved bodies and bloodstains. Yet, while memorials are now highly legislated and influenced by governmental bureaucracy and authority, they were also significantly influenced by internal survivor organizations such as IBUKA, which was founded in 1995 to preserve the memory of genocide and to advocate for the rights and interests of survivors. In addition, external NGOs such as AEGIS Trust, and other specialized agencies, foreign governmental authorities, and various individuals have donated time, money, and resources to the memorialization process. The result is a diverse and rich set of memorial sites and commemoration practices that serve to support the survivor community. Furthermore, memorialization and commemoration are expanding beyond the physicality of Rwanda’s borders and the localized memorial sites. Increasingly, one sees photographic projects, digital archives, and other artistic or virtual engagement with the genocide. These projects are anchored in universities, governmental and international agencies, non-­ governmental groups, survivor projects, and through individuals who are committed to documenting and sharing elements of the genocide. This includes memorials themselves being digitally represented in various projects. Genocide memorials in Rwanda are evocative and haunting. They can often be found sprinkled throughout the countryside, tucked away in various remote locations. At other times, one finds memorials prominent in cities and towns, jutting out against the sky, atop hillsides dominating the surrounding areas. In a country the size of Maryland (USA) or Belgium, there are 265 memorials and 113 private grave sites relating to the genocide.6 Eight of these sites are national memorials; the remaining are generally district- or sector-based sites.7 There are also memorial sites in the



process of construction or planning, memorials being merged into others, memorial stones, monuments, and other private remembrances that dot the countryside.8 This chapter primarily draws from 85 visits to 65 unique sites between 2011 and 2016. In addition, six commemoration events were attended, and multiple interviews were conducted inside and outside of Rwanda. These interviews varied between formal interview settings and observational information drawn from informal conversations and discussions with Rwandan citizens at conferences and commemorations.9

The Emergence of a New National Narrative The creation of informal memorials and commemoration activities began shortly after the RPF liberated Rwanda. The initial actions by survivors of the genocide, Rwandan returnees who lost family, and other individuals impacted by the genocide began to shape the emerging narrative. Part of the reason why memorials began to develop was due to the necessity of mass burials. With an estimated 800,000 dead, bodies at massacre sites were often left exposed to the elements. These massacre sites were quickly turned into memorial spaces by survivors and the family members of those who died. During the genocide mass graves were often constructed quickly for concealment, with bodies dumped in them unceremoniously. In the years following, rainstorms would wash away the shoddily constructed sites, bringing forth new corpses. Following the establishment of the transitional Government of National Unity, numerous mass graves would be uncovered. The exposed bodies posed not only a risk to public health, but also violated Rwandan social and cultural norms. Memorials where bodies could be laid to rest were thus seen as a solution that both survivors and governmental officials alike could accept. Twenty-five years later, Rwandans have still not finished burying their dead.10 Many graves are still hidden, bodies are still undiscovered, and individuals still wonder about the fate of their loved ones. Upon securing the country and the cessation of genocide, the governmental authorities decided that one of the first acts must be to organize dignified burials for the genocide victims (Dumas and Korman 2011, 13) and to determine how to proceed with the discovery of mass graves. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, in addition to various NGOs and specialized agencies, provided support for burial duties; however, it was primarily survivors and



family members of the deceased who had been in exile that carried out the initiative.11 As the Rwandan government began to rebuild, numerous projects relating to preserving the memory of the genocide were developed and various governmental agencies became increasingly involved with trying to determine what happened during the genocide, how the memory of the genocide should be preserved, and how this history should be transmitted to future generations. The first national commemoration ceremony occurred one-year post-­ genocide on April 7, 1995 (Ibreck 2009). The governmental initiative originated with survivor Pio Mugabo, who had assumed a position within the Ministry of Social Affairs; Mugabo organized the event and provided logistical support for the mass burials. The commemoration ceremonies were simple (in comparison to later ceremonies) due to the country’s limited means. The ceremonies in Rebero were described as: “A few coffins – wrapped in purple sheets, buried in graves dug directly into the ground and topped with a simple Catholic wooden cross.” The site of the commemoration, Rebero, was not linked to a massacre site; however, all subsequent national commemorations would be chosen on the basis of genocidal events perpetrated at the site (Dumas and Korman 2011, 13). This illustrates one of the first shifts in official commemoration activities. In addition, while the national commemoration is held on April 7, local commemorations are held throughout the 100 days of remembrance.12 In October 1995, under the Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research, and Culture, the Memorial Commission on Genocide and Massacres in Rwanda was created. This six-person team comprised individuals from various ministries and aimed to identify as many massacre sites across the country as possible.13 The February 1996 document consisted of over 250 pages and provided information for each municipality including dates, major massacre sites, an estimated number of victims based on a cursory review of mass graves, a list of key organizers at these locales, and recommendations for commemoration ceremonies and memorials. Shortly after the Memorial Commission was finished, the Joint Church-State Commission on the Fate of Religious Buildings and Parish Premises that had become mass graves following the genocide [sic] was established (Dumas and Korman 2011, 15). During the genocide, churches were prime targets of the génocidaires, and in the aftermath there was a strong desire by many survivors, family members of the victims, and governmental officials to turn these massacre sites into memorials. The negotiations between the Catholic Church and



the Rwandan government seemed to initially go well, with an agreement that “one church per diocese, i.e. seven in total, was to be converted into a national memorial and managed jointly by the State and the Catholic Church.” This relationship fell apart in June 1996 (Dumas and Korman 2011, 14). The majority of churches resumed their original purpose, with only slight modifications to mark the dead.14 As reconstruction continued, questions of truth-telling, accountability, and justice arose. In the aftermath of the genocide, numerous individuals were sent to jail, and eventually over 2 million would be processed through various court systems, overwhelmingly through the gacaca courts.15 Furthermore, as mass graves continued to be uncovered, and the dead tallied, makeshift memorials were established throughout the countryside.

Legal Construction and Classification of Memorials The process of inclusion and exclusion within the survivor narrative is often contested. In post-conflict situations ranging from Germany to Rwanda, the question of what is included in physical memorial spaces, where these spaces are located, who is remembered, and how it will be remembered is subject to controversy. It is this battle over meaning and memorialization, both private and political, which is often played out in regard to construction and regulation of memorial sites. The Rwandan transitional government (1994–2003) spanned nine years. During this time, it engaged in commemoration and reconciliation activities, created judicial systems for truth-telling, and restored internal security. At least 66% of the memorials on the CNLG list were established between liberation (1994) and 2003, many of which were initiated by survivor communities and families of the victims.16 The transitional government drew to a close in 2003 with the adoption of a new constitution. The new constitution was considered necessary to create a symbolic break with the past (Gasamagera 2007) and would focus on re-establishing the rule of law and codified the foundation of the state narrative. The Preamble includes the following statements: 1. In the wake of the genocide that was organised and supervised by unworthy leaders and other perpetrators and that decimated more than a million sons and daughters of Rwanda; 2. Resolved to fight the ideology of genocide and all its manifestations and to eradicate ethnic, regional, and any other form of divisions; …



4. Emphasizing the necessity to strengthen and promote national unity and reconciliation which were seriously shaken by the genocide and its consequences. (The Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda 2003)

The beginning of the Preamble establishes the genocide as a foundational event and illustrates the narrative that will take form at memorial sites and in commemoration activities. It includes a brief understanding of the genocide, a clear distinction between perpetrators and victims, and a strong prohibition against genocide ideology and divisionism. The Constitution helps to frame how the genocide, and society itself, is understood in the aftermath. Article 178 stipulates that The National Unity and Reconciliation Commission should be created, and Article 179 states: The National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide [CNLG] shall be in an independent national organ. Its responsibilities include the following: 1. to organize a permanent framework for the exchange of ideas on genocide, its consequences and the strategies for its prevention and eradication; 2. to initiate the creation of a national research and documentation centre on genocide; 3. to advocate for the cause of genocide survivors both within the country and abroad; 4. to plan and coordinate all activities aimed at commemoration of the 1994 genocide; 5. to liaise with other national and international institutions with a similar mission (The Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda 2003)

Subsequently, Law N°09/2007 of 16/02/2007 was established, legally creating the Commission. CNLG began its work in 2008 and is responsible for the coordination of memorials, practices, and commemoration activities in varying forms. Their primary office is in Kigali; however, they have field coordinators who work at various sites throughout Rwanda. Having established an institution that coordinates memorial practices, the legal framework was further defined with Law N°56/2008 of 10/09/2008 Governing Memorial Sites and Cemeteries of Victims of the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda. This law builds upon previous legalese regarding the formation and organization of gacaca courts, graveyards, and various administrative elements. This law:



• Defines a genocide memorial site as “a place where victims of genocide were buried and which has a special history in the planning and execution of Genocide” (Article 2). • Establishes the responsibilities of the Minister in charge of commemoration to include designating symbols and activities allowed at commemoration sites (Articles 8–9), and when memorials will be open (Article 15). • Designates burial responsibilities and restrictions (such as a prohibition against destroying the remains) (Articles 4–6). • Establishes that there will be genocide memorial sites at both the national level and at least one at the district level (Article 10). • Clarifies that memorials at both the national and district level should include information regarding Rwandan history before genocide, how the genocide was planned and executed, and the history of the genocide at that specific memorial. Information on the victims is also to be displayed including names and photos; information regarding genocide perpetrators and those who were involved in rescue should also be displayed. Evidence should be preserved including body remains, bones, clothing or other items capable of identifying victims, tools, and weapons (Article 11) (Law N°56/2008). This law clearly demonstrates that the state is strongly engaged with memorialization. At the same time, one must understand that memorials and their meanings are highly decentralized. The national narrative and memorialization process was codified through constitutional elements and laws; however, at the majority of memorials, it was the survivors who began the initial establishment of the narrative. Today, it is at the district level that memorialization policies tend to be carried out. These memorials generally conform to national policies, but not always.17 In addition, many districts are still developing centralized memorials. Other sector-­ level memorials, often crafted by survivors, families of survivors, and locals are unique testimonies of particular historical events. In 2012, CNLG started the process of registering four memorial sites as UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Gisozi, Nyamata, Bisesero, and Murambi (National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide 2012). These sites are national memorials already; however, according to CNLG having them registered with UNESCO will help fight against negation and trivialization of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi (Rwirahira 2016).18



The understanding of the narrative is closely linked with the management of genocide memorials and commemoration ceremonies. Legal regulation of memorial sites, as discussed, was established in 2008; however, in May of 2016, Law N°15/2016 of 02/05/2016 Governing Ceremonies to Commemorate the Genocide Against the Tutsi and Organization and Management of Memorial Sites for the Genocide Against the Tutsi was published. This new law repealed the 2008 law and brought clarification to previous ambiguities. Part of the 2016 law was to clarify ownership and management of genocide memorial sites. As a member of parliament expressed in a local newspaper, The New Times, “Most MPs fear that leaving some memorial sites in the hands of private institutions might give them the leeway to do anything they want with them” (Kwibuka 2016a).19 This shows a fear toward the potential emergence of counter narratives and how these differing accounts at memorial sites or commemoration ceremonies would allow those who deny the genocide an increased platform for genocide denial and revisionism.20 The new law includes the clarification of a memorial site, now defined as a place where bodies of victims are laid to rest and facts about the genocide are kept. This is differentiated from a monument, which can commemorate the genocide but does not contain bodies of the victims. Furthermore, genocide memorials are now to be classified into four categories: national memorial sites managed by CNLG, district memorial sites (including sector memorials) which are to be managed by the district offices, memorial sites abroad which will be overseen by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and international memorial sites to include those managed by UNESCO when the sites previously submitted are recognized as World Heritage Sites (Kwibuka 2016b; Law N°15/2016). The new law also states, “A memorial site for the Genocide against the Tutsi forms part of the State’s public domain” (Law N°15/2016). It removes the requirements that specific items be present at each site; however, it states that “the characteristics of a District memorial site … must be reminiscent of the history of the Genocide against the Tutsi in that District.” The result of this law is that each district has more control over the memorials in their area. Again, these legal changes will allow more diverse approaches to memorialization; however, they will not permit divisionism, genocide ideology, or genocide denial, as all three are criminalized within the Rwandan legal system.



As memorials have been developed, so has interest and control over the corresponding narratives. In the months leading up to April 2004 (the tenth anniversary of the genocide), many in Rwanda and the international community reported feeling  that the world had forgotten the events of 1994. In response, the international network Remembering Rwanda was launched “to commemorate and learn from an event that most of the world has all but forgotten.”21 Additionally, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/58/234) on December 3, 2003, which designated April 7 as the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda.22 In 2008, the state decided to officially transition from the term “Rwandan genocide,” which had been utilized since 1994, to “Genocide against the Tutsi,” due in part to identity politics. In conversations regarding the name change and exclusion of Hutu victims, one civil society leader stated: “Yes, Hutus were killed, but they were not the primary targets of the genocide. They were killed due to being protectors and rescuers of the Tutsi or due to mistaken identities. These individuals should be honored and remembered as well; but the genocide was targeting those of Tutsi origin specifically” (Wolfe et al.). At the 18th commemoration in Washington DC, Rwandan Ambassador James Kimonyo argued that the term “Rwandan genocide” should no longer be used: The state premeditated, planned, and executed the extermination of the Tutsi population and by all accounts this was accomplished, was engineered by the state and it was very clear from the evidence that the targeted population were Tutsi. … So to me continuing to name it as the Rwandan genocide, it is misleading and if you would like, it’s actually denying the state-sponsored killings that were committed against the Tutsi population. So we must push for a narrative that will clearly indicate who was the victim and who was the perpetrator.

In 2014, the United Nations Security Council resolved to use the new term “Genocide Against the Tutsi,” officially bringing international attention and recognition to the phrase (Kagire 2014). Legislation has been crafted to determine what is included in memorials, governmental agents have shaped the narratives being discussed at home and abroad, and the history of the country continues to be displayed through mourning practices and preserved bodies and bloodstains.



It is important, however, to realize that Rwanda memorials and commemorations are not simply legal expressions of state mourning. They serve as a place of mourning for survivors, family members of the dead, and community members. As much as memorials can be political and legally constructed, they are socially and culturally important. As one survivor spoke: “I feel more at ease here, inside these walls, than outside the walls” (Wolfe et al.).

Social and Cultural Construction of Memorials Memorials and memorialization within Rwanda are not founded with universal consensus; however, there does seem to be an agreement within the urban, educated youth population and survivor communities in regard to the importance of these memorials. While there have been various controversies relating to the construction of these sites, this section will discuss the social and cultural importance of the memorials, as well as a brief discussion of the controversies. Within Rwanda, the narrative is of central importance to both the Rwandan government and various survivor associations. These associations began to emerge shortly after the cessation of the genocide and have made memory one of the primary focuses of their work. These groups include large formalized national associations which are assisted by local branches established throughout the country. IBUKA (Kinyarwanda for “remember”) is one such organization, and arguably the most well-known and influential of the survivor groups; however, they also collaborate with other associations such as the genocide widows’ association (AVEGA) and the student survivors’ association (AERG) (Ibreck 2010, 332–334). Despite the collaboration between groups, there is not one single voice from the survivor communities, or even a clear hierarchy. Disagreements over policy and memorialization occur, and as Ibreck (2010) states, there are “gaps between educated urban elites and isolated rural survivors, even if national associations have local branches.” Regardless of tensions between various survivors, survivor organizations, civil society organizations, and governmental officials, Ibreck argues that it is still possible to identify the voice of the survivors that have helped to influence and shape memorial policies. Survivors have been involved at all stages in memorial creation. As previously discussed, this was due to practicality – Rwandan society and culture dictate respectful burial traditions. As such, the survivors needed to



gather the dead and bury their remains; without means, they often turned to the government for assistance. As state control of the narrative continues to tighten, survivors often face restrictive demands from the government and, at times, find themselves at odds with governmental policies. Yet despite the conflicts between the two, survivors have taken the lead in  local commemoration ceremonies and lobbied the government for memorial sites at locations that had none. As Ibreck found: What is apparent is that survivors’ groups and many individual survivors have prominent roles in memorialization, as Ibuka’s executive secretary asserted: Commemoration is above all an affair led by the victims. If there is one thing that survivors are involved in it is that. If the state doesn’t want to do something, then we organise our own. If the mayor of a district doesn’t agree . . . survivors will pursue it. . . . No one can tell us we can’t do this. They have to let us mourn our loved ones. (Ibreck 2010, 334)

Significantly, the survivor community can influence memorial policies.23 One such example is that survivors lobbied for changes in the original dates of commemoration. The week of mourning was changed from April 1 through 7 to April 7 through 13 (Ibreck 2010). Survivors also unofficially held commemoration for 100 days; the 2016 law now reflects that there will be: “a period of one hundred (100) days of remembrance that starts at the same time as the week of mourning and ends on July 03 of each year.” Furthermore, “All entertainment and leisure activities are prohibited during the week of mourning” (Law N°15/2016). It should be noted that after the 20th commemoration within Rwanda, it was announced that national commemorations will only be held every five years; with local commemorations occurring yearly at the village level (Musoni 2015). The two Genocide Memorial Centers (Kigali and Murambi) are more westernized than other memorial sites.24 The key differentiation between these sites and others within Rwanda is the heavy emphasis on explanatory text and multimedia presentations. The emphasis on the written word to explain the history leading up to and during the 100 days of genocide is distinct from the Rwandan tradition of oral history. Of the 65 sites visited, these were the only two memorials to have a written history at the site. The remainder relied on guides to explain the narrative of the genocide, or even more commonly, did not have any individuals present. Kigali



Memorial is managed by the AEGIS Trust, and in Murambi the narrative portion was created in partnership with the same NGO. As AEGIS has significant experience creating Holocaust memorials in the West, the resemblance to a more Western style, and appeal to foreign visitors, is apparent. Having an influence from a Western model is not a criticism; many survivors frequent the memorial and elements of Rwandan culture and art can be found throughout. It does also lend an appeal to those who wish to learn more about the genocide as the written histories are more comprehensive and displayed in multiple languages. Other memorial sites can be considered more traditional. They receive significantly less foreign visitors and primarily serve as a place for mourning. Individuals, when present, speak primarily Kinyarwanda. At the national and district level, the decision was made to conserve human remains and to expose them to visitors. Sector memorials, however, are more dependent on the communities in which they are situated. Guides used to be survivors of the genocide who relied primarily on oral narratives; however, this has been changing at national memorials due to new CNLG staffing policies.25 One key aspect of memorials in Rwanda is the cultural imperative to give the dead a dignified burial. “According to Rwandese culture if you don’t bury relatives they haunt you” (quoted in Ibreck 2010). Furthermore, according to a Rwandan psychiatrist, “When the bodies are not buried, restless and malicious spirits can be felt as a burden, haunting their relatives… allowing people to bury their loved ones means that they are no longer haunted” (quoted in Ibreck 2010). Even for those who do not share that particular belief, reburial in a dignified manner is seen as therapeutic (Ibreck 2010, 336). This idea of reburial is highly important within Rwandan culture and thus the use of human remains in memorials has been controversial. Some argue that it is not proper, as it deviates from traditional burial practices and Rwandan custom (Guyer 2009, 159).26 Other individuals interviewed have argued that preservation and display of remains is necessary in order to combat genocide denial and to provide proof of what happened. In addition, the metamorphism from massacre sites to memorial sites (i.e. “authentic sites”) is also considered to be critically important. One survivor stated: “I have a mission as a survivor to tell you what happened. … They say a lot of things. … They say the survivors are exaggerating; they say we are lying. I bear the traces. The bones will be the proof which will stop these denials” (quoted in Ibreck 2010, 338). While concerned about human remains on display, some survivors have



emphasized care of the bones. They implemented new traditions and customs to show their respect for the dead and maintain that it’s their duty to care for the bodies. Among these traditions is the washing and cleaning of the body for burial and or display. Survivors who have not been able to identify their family’s bodies among the mass graves have spoken that caring for the bones can be therapeutic and many of the staff members are survivors of the genocide themselves or have family members who were murdered at the sites (Wolfe et al.). These diverse sets of interviews and reflections indicate a wide range of opinions and thoughts in regard to displaying bones, ranging from a deep unhappiness to an acceptance based on responsibility both to the dead and to combat genocide denial. There has also been controversy in regard to the memorials concerning ethnicity. The memorials’ primary focus is on the Tutsi victims of the genocide. Some individuals, such as political opponent Victoire Ingabire, have argued that the memorials do not represent Hutus who were killed by the RPF soldiers in the aftermath of the genocide, and therefore memorials are unrepresentative of the Hutu populations’ suffering. The lack of public awareness of the military trials and the perception that there has not been justice has created tensions within the population and left public space for the controversy to simmer. The issue of narrative inclusion and exclusion is a concern for those who engage in peacebuilding as they indicate possible future tensions. Rwandans who have made this argument within the country’s borders, such as the recently pardoned Victoire Ingabire, have been arrested for genocide denial and/or divisionism.27 Others worry that a lack of acknowledgment and exclusion of memories will undermine a “durable” peace.28 Alternatively, many argue that the purpose of Rwandan memorials and commemoration activities are to testify to the genocidal killings which occurred in those localities; these killings were primarily centered on the Tutsi population. By individuals equating the retaliatory killings of the RPF to genocide, the perpetrators convey the idea that there has been a balance of suffering. In these arguments the genocide against the Tutsi is minimized, presented as less significant and encompassing, to be recognized as morally equitable in the same memorials space (Moerland 2016; Beloff Forthcoming). Interviews with civil society leaders and guides at the memorial sites in 2016 indicated that those who were killed by the genocide were included in the narrative. Several discussed that the government of Rwanda had made efforts to include Hutus who were involved in rescue and resistance



or those who died due to their political beliefs. For example, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, the Hutu Prime Minister who died because she was a moderate and called for peace is entombed at the Heroes’ Mausoleum. A testimony and recounting of the school in which Hutu and Tutsi children were killed when they refused to be divided is also illustrated at several locations as well. Survivors discuss that Hutus who resisted the genocide regime were killed; in the words of one survivor: “Tell them not all Hutus were bad. Not all Hutus killed” (Wolfe et al.). An official narrative is threaded through these memorials, commemorations, and various other remembrance activities. In turn, these memorials help to codify and coordinate the narrative as they provide physical proof of the genocide. Yet, memorials also serve important cultural and social functions of providing space for commemoration and survivors. One cannot untangle the political and legal aspects from the social and cultural aspects due to how intertwined they are. In Rwanda these memorials serve multiple purposes. As one survivor spoke about volunteering to work at the memorial [unpaid], “Here in this memorial is my family. Where else would I go? Why would I leave?” (Wolfe et al.).

Memorialization Unmoored Although the process of memorialization and memory is heavily embedded in the physicality of Rwanda and the trauma experienced at the killing sites, one can see an increasing development of memory transmission being disseminated through digital and visual means. As with memorials, there is engagement by both the state and survivors, in addition to foreign governments, Western and non-Western academics, and other individuals who engage in memory work. Photography, and the creation of photographic projects and archives, has been one way in which memorialization has emerged, both in print and online. Scott Straus, in the introduction of Intimate Enemy: Images and Voices of the Rwandan Genocide, argues that memorials “scare and haunt those who would enter them. They do not stimulate reflection; they purvey shock and horror and thus paralyze thought.” The book, a collection of testimonies from génocidaires, accompanied by photographs of convicted genocide perpetrators, suspected génocidaires, and survivors, is meant to “help readers confront unimaginable violence in a manner that stimulates, rather than stifles, reflection.” The photographs and testimonies are presented with little explanatory detail, an effort to allow the



reader to explore the visuals and written word to make their own discoveries (Lyons and Straus pp. 14–16). Rafiki Ubaldo, a Rwandan photographer, had a differing approach to the subject of memorialization and the genocide. In his experience, most Rwandan photographers work on press photos and media work; they do not often think of projects such as memorials. Working on the subject of the genocide, the photos the media wanted most were of perpetrators. He took many photos of people’s eyes and faces, but was never comfortable with what developed. In addition, photographs of survivors seemed to be a violation to him. He knew photography was an important medium, but it often seemed very Western and cold. As a photographer, but more importantly as a Rwandan, he wanted to memorialize what had happened. His approach was then to take pictures of the memorials and of everyday objects left there: a clay stove, a wedding ring, a comb, jewelry… The everyday objects tied the victims to “the life of every other man, every other woman.” They brought forth an individual connection and helped to personalize the genocide. These everyday objects, preserved in memorials, are symbolic of a history lost. The objects help to teach a horrific subject, and are useful as an educational tool. It allows one to memorialize in a different way, even though Ubaldo acknowledges that the majority of those interested in the photos are in the Western world (Wolfe 2014). Digital archives of photographs, videos, and testimonies have been increasing throughout the years.29 On December 10, 2010, an archive and documentation center, the Genocide Archive Rwanda, was established by AEGIS Trust, and is physically housed at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.30 A 2016 news article reported that after nearly six years of collecting data and information, it went live with close to 8000 items, including “photographs, videos, audio clips, documents about pre-genocide, genocide and Rwanda after the 1994 genocide.” The purpose of the digital archives, according to the manager at Genocide Archive Rwanda, Claver Irakoze, is “to preserve memory. But we also seek to educate, and this requires our collection be accessible” (quoted in Ndegeya 2016). The archive includes an interactive map with a small selection of memorial sites listed.31 Similarly, Jens Meierhenrich was the principal investigator on a project resulting in the creation of the website, “Through a Glass Darkly: Genocide Memorials in Rwanda 1994-present.” This Harvard website focuses on 68 genocide memorials/sites described as “select data from a larger, multi-­ year project on the transformation of Rwanda’s lieux de mèmoire that revolves around a historical and spatial analysis of the entire universe of



genocide memorials, informal and otherwise, that have emerged  – and some that have vanished – in the last sixteen years.”32 This online database illustrates a glimpse into commemoration and memorialization. Brief descriptions of the varying sites, photographs of the memorials in addition to descriptive vignettes allows one to examine and reflect on the topography of various memorials and gain a sense of the memorial itself.33 These small glimpses into memorials allow one to ruminate on the physicality and symbolism of the memorials without leaving home. They both preserve the memory and transmit it to an audience one assumes is abroad; that is, the legal and societal construction of Rwandan memorials is now transmitted to a digital audience. Likewise, online access to testimonies has increased. The USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive (VHA) allows one access to more than 55,000 video testimonies from survivors and witnesses of various atrocities and genocides. These archives include 86 testimonies on the genocide in Rwanda.34 As of October 9, 2018, the full range of the VHA is now available to those who reside in Rwanda. Kigali Genocide Memorial, in partnership with AEGIS Trust, is the first location within Africa to host the full archive. In addition, the Kigali Peace School Computer Lab was opened; this classroom utilizes the platform I Witness Rwanda to teach about the genocide.35 With survivors, governmental authorities, and other non-state actors having a keen interest in narrative creation and memorialization of the genocide, it is no surprise that tensions arise. One of the most prominent examples of this type of conflict can be seen in the controversies surrounding the most well-known Western film Hotel Rwanda and the hotel manager central to the film—Paul Rusesabagina. Within the docudrama, we see that Rusesabagina, a Hutu, ultimately saves more than 1200 people. For his actions during the genocide, he has been bestowed numerous awards including the (USA) Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 (Waldorf 2009) and is often compared to Oskar Schindler, who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust. Broderick (2010) recounts that survivor groups—and particularly IBUKA—were significantly agitated regarding the film. Broderick gives three reasons for this discontent: (1) the plotting and characterizations were presented via a Hollywood narrative and thus distorted to appeal to a large international audience; (2) survivor-witnesses argued that Rusesabagina did not act in a heroic manner; and (3) the film was shot in South Africa and not in Rwanda. Broderick reports that survivors



“mandated a protocol for filmmakers to comply with when the Rwandan government negotiated offshore productions in the country on genocide topics” (p.  218). Rwigema (Forthcoming) argues that survivors in Toronto, Canada, protested Rusesabagina’s speaking engagement because he only gave protection to Tutsis who could pay. Two books, Hotel Rwanda or the Tutsi Genocide as Seen by Hollywood (2008) and Inside the Hotel Rwanda: The Surprising True Story… and Why It Matters Today (2014), present the skeptical version of Rusesabagina’s actions. The Rwandan government is also highly critical of Paul Rusesabagina and Hotel Rwanda, stating that they (both the individual and the film itself) propagate negationism. Waldrof (2009) however, points out the “strange irony” of this claim in his article, Revisiting Hotel Rwanda: genocide ideology, reconciliation, and rescuers, since the film brought Western attention to an event many overlooked.

Conclusion Memorials and commemoration ceremonies are embedded within the narrative in post-genocide Rwanda, and more recently so are the creation of digital archives and alternative forms of memorialization. As demonstrated throughout this chapter, both survivors and the post-genocide government have been involved with the emergence of an official narrative and guiding the burial and mourning practices throughout the country. Rwanda is not unique in this manner; memorial sites and educational practices typically reflect the ideals and national identity of the state. In Rwanda, however, the preponderance of bodies necessitated immediacy in the creation of memorial spaces. While memorial and commemoration policies generally have followed a top-down approach, they have also been highly influenced by survivors and families of the deceased. Further, sector memorials have often demonstrated a bottom-up approach where the community members initiate the project, and then request district support. Thus, these memorials demonstrate the expectations and preferences of the surrounding area more so than the national or district memorials. Memorials are more than just burial grounds. They are seen as a means to restore justice and provide truth through remembrance. They are one measure, among many, to end impunity. By recognizing the sites in which individuals were killed, by recounting the numbers, the names, the methods, through preservation of artifacts and human remains, through the



transmission, and experience of the memorial site itself, it is hard to deny the pain, grief, and sheer death toll in those locales. It makes denial that much harder and holds perpetrators accountable to history. Memorials tend to be sites of mass killings and sorrowful memories. As Ibreck (2010) states: The memorials are part of a state-led endeavor to promote a collective identity in a nation torn apart by genocide. Public remembrance is typically a means for national elites to cultivate a shared understanding of the past and to construct political legitimacy; in Rwanda the ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (the RPF) seeks to employ it to this end. However, the memorials are not simply a tool to serve political interests; they are also shaped by the distinct concerns of Rwanda’s genocide survivors, the largest group of active contributors to the manufacture of genocide memorials (330).

This is especially relevant as recurring massacres since 1959 were routinely ignored before 1994. Amnesty was standard, and memories of killings found no space in the legal or political spheres. Policies and narratives have evolved over time, and in Rwanda, far “from remaining sacrosanct, these [memorial] sites have proved particularly susceptible to vacillations in a memorial policy whose history can be traced back to 1994” (Dumas and Korman 2011, 11). These policies have arisen amidst the question of what happened, where, when, and why. They are updated as new research emerges, and as even more bodies are discovered. Memorials are seen as part of the justice process and proof against impunity. More importantly, they provide a narrative space for those who lost loved ones to tell their stories, to memorialize the past, and to mourn for those who were lost. Other emergent forums include the creation and publication of photo galleries, of comic books such as Rwanda 1994, and books of art such as Justice au Rwanda. The artistic expressions reach out to create more mobile forms of expression. Memorials are tied to their locality by blood stains and relics, commemoration ceremonies to those who attend, yet photographs, artwork, and digital mediums can reach a broad audience, both domestic and international. These representations can be as haunting and evocative as memorials. With an estimated 800,000 souls lost, silence is not an option. Society itself has transitioned; memorials have been



created, physical spaces, objects, and people photographed, and the history of the country written in bloodstains and bones.

Notes 1. The number of individuals killed during the genocide remains controversial within the international community. Conservative estimates place the number of dead at 500,000 whereas the Rwandan government has stated that 1,071,000 were killed, with 90% being Tutsi. This chapter utilizes the figure of 800,000, which was given by a United Nations expert on population losses and cited by the late Alison Des Forges. See Des Forges (1999), Verpoorten (2005), Vesperini (2004), and Survivors Fund for further analysis. 2. Multiple individuals interviewed from 2016 to 2018 reported burgomasters, church leaders, business people, and teachers among those who were killed for being influential Tutsi or for being a Hutu who resisted the genocide. These individuals were targeted first, with other Tutsi and Hutu rescuers soon to follow. Those individuals who were killed due to their governmental role were quickly replaced by extremists who would encourage and carry out further killings (see FN 9, Wolfe et al). 3. Following Longman, this text does not differentiate between the Rwandan Patriotic Front and the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA). Technically, the RPF is a political movement, whereas the RPA is the armed wing; however, the two are closely linked with overlapping personnel (Longman 2017, p. 3 footnote 5). 4. Rwanda’s coming to terms with the past has been quite extensive in comparison with other countries that have experienced mass atrocities; both in the timeliness of the measures implemented and the percentage of the population held accountable for their actions. It should be noted that this trend originated in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Subsequently, the emergent normative trend—that states should redress their past—is now prominent within international society. These changing norms have led to the increasing number of memorials, apologies, and reparations offered by all societies (Wolfe 2014a). 5. Throughout this chapter, I will discuss the official narrative that has emerged in post-conflict Rwanda and the influence of the state and the survivors on this narrative. By this, I mean the historical narrative, that is, the spoken or written account of the history of the country. Official narratives tend to reflect the country itself. It can be seen in educational measures such as how history is codified in textbooks and taught in educational settings, required courses at university levels on history and government, legislation, and memorials that transmit a historical account of a conflict.



6. In conversations with locals, it has been referenced that there is a memorial in every district and sector of the country. If that figure was accurate then there would be approximately 446 memorials. Ibreck (2010) references 500 memorials and Viebach (2014) references 300 memorials. In 2016, CNLG, the governmental agency responsible for memorials, provided my research team (see FN 9) with a list of 265 memorials; however, throughout our travels, additional memorials and monuments were discovered via discussions with district offices and private individuals. 7. It is commonly referenced that there are six national memorial sites; however, in 2017 two memorials were elevated in status to the national level thus bringing the total to eight. 8. Since the initial list was received in 2016, several memorials have merged; as such, interviews in subsequent years have included both survivors and officials on the process of merging memorials. Both groups discussed the new memorials that were being planned, one interviewee (district official) provided the architect plans for the planned memorial, while the survivors talked about the process (and their involvement) of negotiating which site the memorial should be located. 9. Trips taken in 2011, 2013, 2014, and 2015 were preliminary research trips while I was still formulating my research questions. As part of these trips, I took students to participate in a Peacebuilding Institute with Never Again Rwanda and toured the country independent of the organization. During these years, I repeatedly visited national memorials to listen to narrative developments, in addition to interviews, discussions, and commemorations attended for other research projects. From 2016 through 2019 formal interviews and site visits were conducted for the manuscript in preparation, Journey through Rwandan Memorials. This research project is being carried out by Stephanie Wolfe, Omar Ndizeye, Anna-Marie De Beer, and Joseph Nkurunziza. These interviews were conducted in English, French, and Kinyarwanda, depending on the comfort level and desires of the interviewee. Kinyarwandan translation was conducted by Omar Ndizeye, a genocide survivor and co-author of the above-mentioned project. The interviews were set primarily at the genocide site, unless survivors desired to meet elsewhere. 10. Mass graves were discovered frequently in the immediate aftermath of the genocide. While the discovery of mass graves is not as common now, both small and large grave sites are still being uncovered. During the 2016 portion of the interviews, one sector official reported that following the release of a genocide prisoner (earlier that year), information had been disclosed resulting in 22 more bodies being discovered. More recently, four additional mass graves were discovered in April of 2018 (Ingber 2018).



11. One interviewee recounted that his sector received a memo indicating burials for genocide victims were a priority. As a survivor, and an elected official, he worked with other survivors to create a small sector memorial where victims could be buried and remembered (Wolfe et al). 12. In 2004, the United Nations also recognized April 7 as the Day of Remembrance. This date was chosen to signify the start of the genocide. President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down shortly after 8 p.m. on April 6 and killings began to commence after. Rwanda now holds a 100-day commemoration period starting on this date. During these dates, different memorial sites hold small community commemorations and other remembrance activities based on the significant dates for the specific location. 13. Dumas and Korman 2011 p. 13. Although this was a governmental initiative, it was supported by a German international cooperation agency and Eric Rousseau, a Belgian national who joined the Rwandan Ministry in the aftermath of the genocide. 14. Interview with survivor who works in the field of genocide prevention (June 2016). Additional information and further discussion can be found in Longman (2001). 15. Schabas (2009) estimates that in November 1994 there were only a small percentage of judges alive who had not been involved in the genocide and approximately 20 lawyers. Furthermore, Clark (2009) details that in the aftermath of the genocide 120,000 individuals were arrested. Various sources have estimated that national trials would have taken between 80 and 100  years. The gacaca courts were thus created in 2001 and were community-­based. Gacaca had its roots in traditional village practices of dispute resolution and were more informal than the national court system. The gacaca courts heard 1,958,634 cases between 2002 and the close of the trials in 2012 (with a 14% acquittal rate). Between 1994 and 2006 the national courts heard approximately 10,000 genocide related courses. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted 93 people between 1995 and the close of trials in 2012, with 62 sentenced. For a discussion on the gacaca and other court systems, see: Palmer (2015), Ingelaere (2016), and Clark (2010). 16. Of the 265 memorials listed, at least 174 were established between 1994 and 2003, compared to 74 memorials established between 2004 and June 2016. There were 17 memorials I was unable to confirm origination date at the time of press. 17. While the district memorials sometimes differed from the 2008 law, they did not deviate from the overall narrative itself. 18. Genocide denial and revisionism have been continual threats within Rwanda, surrounding areas, and increasingly in the international community. There are multiple ways that the genocide has been denied; some of



the methods have included minimizing the numbers killed, arguing that the events were a “double genocide,” implying that the deaths were part of the civil war, or that the victims caused the conflict. My own research has demonstrated that genocide denial has been increasing within the Western media. Guides, governmental officials, and survivors alike have often commented that memorials serve a purpose of recording the dead. It is physical proof of what happened and serves not only as a place of mourning, but of history. Genocide denial, genocide ideology, and divisionism are illegal under Rwandan law. For further information on genocide denial, see Moerland (2016) and Melvern (2020). 19. The New Times is an English language newspaper started in 1995. The paper states that it is a privately owned newspaper with three shareholders and stated that it is “free independent and professional media with no government affiliation” (Snide 2016); whereas Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called it “state-owned” (HRW 2009). For a discussion on the press laws and censorship issues, see Waldrof (2007). In addition, the 2018 Freedom of the Press Index ( ranks Rwanda as 156th in the world. Acknowledging that media is restricted within Rwanda, the New Times seems to be respected within Rwanda and trustworthy to report perceptions of various Members of Parliament; however, even President Kagame has acknowledged that the paper has been “too servile to him and his party” in the past, see Rwanda’s Election (2010). 20. See similar cases with Auschwitz numbers of dead and attempting revisionism/denial in that case. 21. Coordinated by Canadian scholar and UN Expert Gerald Caplan; see accessed March 3, 2016. 22. United Nations: Outreach Programme on the Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations, accessed March 3, 2016. 23. Brehm and Fox (2017) agree with Ibreck’s conclusions that genocide survivors are the largest group of active contributors to memorial creation, but continue that the narrative has also been influenced by media depictions, aid activity, and the return of refugees. For further discussion on how memory efforts privilege particular stories and an analysis of how time impacts memory efforts and narrative within Rwanda, see their article. 24. Lischer (2019) argues that Western interaction with memorials impacts dominant government narratives within Rwanda, Cambodia, and Bosnia in two ways. They (1) reinforce “the dehumanising aspects of tourism that prioritise an exclusionary version of the past” and that (2) the funding and consultation with Western organizations encourages “a homogenised



atrocity narrative that reflects the values of the global human rights regime and existing standards of memorial design rather than privileging the local particularities of the atrocity experience.” (p.  2) The Western narrative preference she argues is based on an easily digestible and oversimplified narrative of good and bad guys, innocents harmed (especially children), and explicit graphic displays such as human remains and photos. The manuscript in preparation Journey through Rwandan Memorials will grapple with this issue further, but it is important to note that the vast majority of memorials within Rwanda are not “Westernized,” and in discussions with Rwandans, there has been pushback on labeling memorials “Western.” 25. In 2016, Samantha Lakin referenced the changing memorial staffing policies which I have also observed at national memorials and some district memorials; however, the smaller sector-based memorials still often rely heavily on volunteers. 26. Wolfe et al.—Multiple interviews at memorial sites echoed the importance of “dignified” and “proper” burials. 27. Victoire Ingabire is a political opponent who was arrested, sentenced, and recently pardoned. See for further details. 28. For an in-depth analysis of included and excluded memory at memorials, see King (2010). 29. Further analysis of photographs can be found in Möller and Ubaldo (2013) and Cieplak (2017). In addition, the United Nations hosts a variety of online photographic projects such as Visions of Rwanda Photo Project where genocide survivors and perpetrators documented their everyday “life, hopes, dreams, and memories” in 2007. In addition, they host other exhibits such as “800,000” (a fine arts commemoration project) and educational material such as “Tugire Ubumwe – Let’s Unite!” a graphic novel on “teaching lessons from the Rwanda genocide.” See http://www.un. org/en/preventgenocide/rwanda/index.shtml for full exhibits and archives. (Accessed October 18, 2018). 30. http://genocidearchiver w/index.php?title=Histor y_ of_the_Aegis_trust_archive_and_documentation 31. The newspaper article stated 30 sites were on the interactive map; while a separate webpage on Genocide Archive Rwanda states that there you can take a virtual tour of 22 memorial sites. On October 21, 2018, I could visually count 28 memorial sites on the interactive map; however, some virtual tours were restricted access. 32. The project reports that the research team has visited over 100 sites of memory accessed on October 8, 2019. 33. There is a mapping system that I explored in previous years; however, I have not been able to access this function recently.



34. The VHA lists 84 interviews were conducted in the United States and Rwanda and 86 currently online. Of those, 69 were in conjunction with the Kigali Genocide Memorial. See 35. See

Bibliography ______. 2010. Rwanda’s Election: President Paul Kagame Under Scrutiny. The Economist, August 5. Associated Press Wire Service. 1994. UN Discovers Mass Graves in Rwanda. New York Times, October 7, p. A8. Beloff, Jonathan R. Forthcoming. ‘Double Genocide’ or Revenge Killings? Did the Liberators of the Rwandan Genocide Commit Their Own Genocide? In the Shadow of Genocide: Memory, Justice, and Transformation Within Rwanda. Unpublished manuscript. Brehm, Hollie Nyseth, and Nicole Fox. 2017. Narrating Genocide: Time, Memory, and Blame. Sociological Forum 1 (32): 116–137. Broderick, Mick. 2010. Mediating Genocide Producing Digital Survivor Testimony in Rwanda. In Documentary Testimonies: Global Archives of Suffering, ed. Bhaskar Sarkar and Janet Walker. New York: Routledge. Cieplak, Piotr. 2017. Death, Image, Memory: The Genocide in Rwanda and Its Aftermath in Photography and Documentary Film. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Clark, Phil. 2009. The Rules (and Politics) of Engagement: The Gacaca Courts and Post-Genocide Justice, Healing and Reconciliation in Rwandans. In After Genocide: Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict Reconstruction & Reconciliation, ed. Phil Clark and Zachary D. Kaufman. Columbia: Columbia University Press. ———. 2010. The Gacaca Courts, Post Genocide Justice and Reconciliation in Rwanda. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Des Forges, Alison. 1999. Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda. New York: Human Rights Watch. Dumas, Hélène, and Rémi Korman. 2011. Espaces de la mémoire du genocide des Tutsis au Rwanda. Afrique Contemporaine 2: 11–27. Gasamagera, Wellars. 2007. The Constitution Making Process in Rwanda: Lessons to be Learned. United Nations. public/documents/un/unpan026620.pdf. Accessed 26 June 2013. Government of Rwanda. 2003. The Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda. ———. 2008. Law N°56/2008 of 10/09/2008 Governing Memorial Sites and Cemeteries of Victims of the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda. ———. 2016. Law N°15/2016 of 02/05/2016 Governing Ceremonies to Commemorate the Genocide Against the Tutsi and Organization and Management of Memorial Sites for the Genocide Against the Tutsi.



Guyer, Sara. 2009. Rwanda’s Bones. Boundary 2 (36): 155–175. Human Rights Watch. 2009. Response to the New Times Article on Rwandan Genocide. Ibreck, Rachel. 2009. Remembering Humanity: The Politics of Genocide Memorialisation in Rwanda. Ph.D dissertation, University of Bristol. ———. 2010. The Politics of Mourning: Survivor Contributions to Memorials in Post-Genocide Rwanda. Memory Studies 3: 330–343. Ingber, Sasha. 2018. Mass Graves Discovered 24 Years After Rwandan Genocide. National Public Radio Online, April 26. thetwo-way/2018/04/26/606105347/mass-graves-discovered-24-yearsafter-rwandan-genocide. Accessed 28 Apr 2018. Ingelaere, Bert. 2016. Inside Rwanda’s Gacaca Courts: Seeking Justice After Genocide. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Kagire, Edmund. 2014. Genocide Against the Tutsi: It’s Now Official. The East African, February 1. Kimonyo, James. 2012. 18th Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda. Washington, DC. King, Elisabeth. 2010. Memory Controversies in Post-Genocide Rwanda: Implications for Peacebuilding. Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal 5 (3): Article 6. Kwibuka, Eugene. 2016a. Government to Manage Genocide Memorial Sites. The New Times, March 3. ———. 2016b. Who Should Take Care of Genocide Memorial Sites on Private Property? The New Times, February 29. Lischer, Sarah Kenyon. 2019. Narrating Atrocity: Genocide Memorials, Dark Tourism, and the Politics of Memory. Review of International Studies 45: 1–23. Longman, Timothy. 2001. Church Politics and the Genocide in Rwanda. Journal of Religion in Africa 31 (2): 163–186. ———. 2017. Memory and Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lyons, Robert, and Scott Straus. 2006. Intimate Enemy: Images and Voices of the Rwandan Genocide. New York: Zone Books. Melvern, Linda. 2020. Intent to Deceive: Denying the Rwandan Genocide. New York: Verso. Moerland, Roland. 2016. The Killing of Death: Denying the Genocide Against the Tutsi. Antwerp: Intersentia. Möller, Frank, and Rafiki Ubaldo. 2013. Imaging Life After Death: Photography and the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. In Art and Trauma in Africa, ed. Lizelle Bisschoff and Stefanie Van De Peer. New York: I.B. Tauris & C. Musoni, Edwin. 2015. 21 Years Later, Rwanda Remembers. The New Times, April 7.



National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide. 2012. Sites mémoriaux du génocide: Nyamata, Murumbi, Bisesero et Gisozi. On UNESCO Tentative Lists, June 15. Ref. 5753. Ndegeya, Cyril. 2016. Digitally Archiving Testimonies of Genocide Survivors for Generations. The East African, April 30. Palmer, Nicola. 2015. Courts in Conflict: Interpreting the Layers of Justice in Post-­ Genocide Rwanda. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Rwigema, M.J. Forthcoming. Experts in the Suffering of Others: Race, Knowledge Production and the Rwandan Genocide. In In the Shadow of Genocide: Memory, Justice, and Transformation Within Rwanda, unpublished manuscript. Rwirahira, Rodrigue. 2016. CNLG Urges Lobbying for Memorial Sites to Gain World Heritage Status. The New Times, January 27. Schabas, William A. 2009. Post-Genocide Justice in Rwanda: A Spectrum of Options. In After Genocide: Transitional Justice, Post-Conflict Reconstruction & Reconciliation, ed. Phil Clark and Zachary D. Kaufman. Columbia: Columbia University Press. Snide, Rhiannon. 2016. Analysis of Media in Rwanda: Internship with the New Times. Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection, 2432. Survivors Fund. Statistics. Accessed 17 Mar 2018. Verpoorten, Marijke. 2005/4. Le coût en vies haines du génocide rwandais: le cas de la province de Gikongoro. Population 60: 331–367. Vesperini, Helen. 2004. No Consensus on Genocide Death Toll., April 06. Viebach, Julia. 2014. Alétheia and the Making of the World: Inner and Outer Dimensions of Memorials in Rwanda. In Memorials in Times of Transitions, ed. Susanne Buckley-Zistel and Stefanie Schäfer, 69–94. Cambridge: Intersentia. Waldrof, Lars. 2007. Censorship and Propaganda in Post-Genocide Rwanda. In The Media and the Rwandan Genocide, ed. Allan Thompson, 404–416. London: Pluto Press. Waldorf, Lars. 2009. Revisiting: genocide ideology, reconciliation, and rescuers. Journal of Genocide Research 11 (1): 101–125. Wolfe, Stephanie. 2014. The Politics of Reparations and Apologies. New York: Springer. Wolfe, Stephanie, Omar Ndizeye, Anna-Marie De Beer, and Joseph Nkurunziza. Interviews Conducted Between 2016–2018 for the Manuscript in Preparation. Journey Through Rwandan Memorials.

Breaking the Silence: Memorialization and Cultural Repair in the Aftermath of the Armenian Genocide Armen T. Marsoobian

Introduction A common feature of many mass atrocities and genocides is the systematic destruction of the cultural artifacts of the targeted population. Often such destruction begins early in the genocidal process, as was the case with the destruction of Jewish religious and cultural heritage during Kristallnacht; while in other cases, the destruction continues long after, even decades after the initial crime, as was vividly evidenced in the 2006 Azeri destruction of the medieval Armenian cemetery at Julfa, a UNESCO designated Intangible Cultural Heritage site.1 Whether it is the destruction of synagogues in Nazi-occupied Europe, mosques in the Serbian-appropriated lands of Bosnia, or churches in the historic Armenian lands of modern Turkey, the perpetrators or their heirs attempt to deny or minimize their crimes by cleansing the landscape of any reminders of their victims. When

A. T. Marsoobian (*) Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, CT, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 E. M. Zucker, D. J. Simon (eds.), Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




perpetrator societies are held to account, as in the case of Germany with the Holocaust, such cultural destruction is often halted and, in some cases, reversed.2 When, as is the case with Turkey and the Bosnian Serbs, the perpetrators evade collective responsibility for their crimes, the destruction continues. Great time and effort go into engineering a collective amnesia that is integral to the creation of a national narrative employed to justify and glorify criminal actions. Reversing such efforts at erasure and denial takes equally great effort on the part of victim groups and their advocates. An old technology, photography, whose power has been greatly enhanced in our digital age, can play a crucial role in reversing the erasure of a targeted group’s culture. While there may be minimal impact on halting the physical destruction taking place, the restoration of cultural heritage through digital media in both real and virtual spaces can make significant contributions toward reshaping collective memory and thus sowing the seeds for eventual accountability and reparations. In what follows, I shall first discuss the theoretical role that cultural destruction plays in the conceptualization of genocide, particularly in the work of Raphael Lemkin. I shall then briefly describe the systematic destruction of the Armenian cultural heritage that began with the genocide in 1915 and continues to this day. This destruction goes hand in hand with Turkish state denial of the Armenian Genocide. If there is minimal physical evidence of the historical Armenian presence on their historic homeland, that is, in Anatolia and the Armenian Highlands, then the magnitude of the crime can be minimized by the perpetrators. Efforts to combat this denial first began with the work of scholars who turned to archival documents for evidence. Without established historical provenance, photographic images of the crime could only play a minor corroborating role. Photographs did exist but primarily in the Armenian diaspora. For decades after 1915 they only played a role in personal family remembrances of lost loved ones. Beginning in the late 1960s, personal remembrance began a transformation into communal memorialization. Photographs were to play a greater role in these memorial events. With the explosion of digital image making in the 1990s, photos old and new could be shared across space and time. The photographic image would now play a greater role both in memorialization and in the reimagining of the heritage that was destroyed. Recent ongoing efforts to combat genocide denial have focused on cultural restoration, often through the use of digitalized visual media. Some of these efforts will be described in what follows. Finally, I shall



provide a personal account of my decade-long memory project in which my partners and I employed a digitalized archive of historic Ottoman Armenian photographs to combat genocide denial in Turkey. The project has been ground-breaking, provocative, and given the political climate in Turkey, risky. Our memory project is one small part of the cultural restoration necessary to reverse the wrongs perpetrated in the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath. Cultural Destruction as a Component of Genocide From the beginning, cultural destruction has been a part of the conceptualization of the genocidal process. Raphael Lemkin, the man who coined the term “genocide,” saw cultural destruction as central to the processes he would eventually label “genocide.” He never limited the concept of genocide exclusively to the biological extermination of large numbers of individuals. His thinking regarding the collective nature of the crime presupposed a cultural component to the destruction. Lemkin began thinking about the nature of the crime of genocide when he was disturbed by the lack of criminal accountability in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide. During his law school days in Lvov, he had followed the 1921 Berlin trial of Soghomon Tehlirian, the Armenian assassin of Mehmed Talaat Pasha, the chief architect of the genocide. Lemkin had pressed his law professors regarding the contradictions in a legal system in which an individual, such as Tehlirian, could be charged with the murder of one individual, Talaat, while there was no legal mechanism to bring to justice Talaat, an individual responsible for the murder of a million and a half of his own citizens. His professors told him that sovereignty was supreme. The citizens of a nation were property whose rulers could do to them as they pleased. Lemkin was astonished that a crime of such scope could be left unpunished. In his mind it was not simply a matter of breaching the barrier of state sovereignty but understanding that this was a crime of a different kind. A crime against a group, a collectivity, was not simply a matter of aggregating crimes committed against individual members of the collectivity. There was a harm of a different kind, maybe a greater harm, when individuals are targeted simply for being members of a collectivity. Destroying a group that was essential to the self-identity of its individual members added a unique dimension to such crimes. Understanding group identity forced Lemkin to think more deeply about the role of cultural destruction in the crime of genocide.



As early as 1933, Lemkin would propose a law prohibiting the targeting of collectivities and the unique harms that such acts would engender. He wrote: “In particular these are attacks carried out against an individual as a member of a collectivity. The goal of the author [of the crime] is not only to harm an individual, but, also to cause damage to the collectivity to which the latter belongs. Offenses of this type bring harm not only to human rights, but also and most especially they undermine the fundamental basis of the social order.”3 In analyzing these acts, which he labeled acts of barbarity and acts of vandalism, Lemkin emphasized the social nature of the crime. In his proposed law, Lemkin specifically labeled acts of cultural destruction as “vandalism.” He wrote: “An attack targeting a collectivity can also take the form of systematic and organized destruction of the art and cultural heritage in which the unique genius and achievement of a collectivity are revealed in fields of science, arts, and literature.”4 Today such acts of vandalism are sometimes singled out in the literature as “cultural genocide.” Lemkin would go on to further develop this concept of cultural destruction in his 1944 work, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, the work in which the word “genocide” first appeared in print: Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population which is allowed to remain, or upon the territory alone, after removal of the population and the colonization of the area by the oppressor’s own nationals.5

In his concept of genocide, Lemkin identifies a process, not an event. The patterns Lemkin describes are present today in most successful genocides, as is evidenced in the Republika Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Republic of Turkey. Cultural Destruction: The Armenian Case Both phases of Lemkin’s concept of genocide took place in the Armenian case. Once the Armenian “national pattern” was destroyed, there soon followed “the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor” upon the remnants of the Armenian people in Turkey. The Turkification and Islamization of those “allowed to remain”—mostly young girls kidnapped



as sexual slaves or forced into marriage with their captors—results today in the phenomenon known as “the hidden Armenians,” descendants of these women, some of whom are now discovering their Armenian roots. The second pattern, the imposition of the oppressor’s national pattern on the “territory alone,” aptly describes the over 100-year process of cultural destruction taking place across the Armenian homeland. During the period of the forced deportation and massacres of the Armenians, much of their material and cultural property was confiscated or destroyed. The Ottoman Turkish authorities were especially concerned that photography not be employed to establish evidence of their crimes. Almost all photographers in the regions of Anatolia and the Armenian Highlands, regions where the bulk of the Armenians lived, were Armenians and, to a lesser extent, Greeks. Most of these photographers perished, while the few who were allowed to remain, often in the employ of the government or military, were placed under strict control. The photographic contents of many studios were destroyed along with the personal family photographs of the Armenian deportees. Yet the complete erasure of photographic evidence of a people was hard to accomplish.6 A unique set of circumstances contributed to the afterlife of these photographic images. Photography had flourished in Armenian lands for over 40 years by the time the genocide began in earnest in April 1915. This was also a period of significant emigration, especially to the United States. Fleeing violence, persecution, and economic privations, Armenians had been emigrating in ever-increasing numbers. Photography was an essential mode of communication between the migrants and the family and friends they left behind.7 Also, a large American missionary community was present in the Armenian lands at the outbreak of the First World War. Their work with the Christian minorities was documented and often illustrated by photographs. As a result, the bulk of the photographic documentation of the people and places of these Armenian lands survives outside of Turkey today. A myriad of factors resulted in the silencing of the tragic events of the genocide. A campaign of active Turkish government denial was abetted by a desire of the Western European powers and the United States to placate the Kemalist rulers and their agenda of Turkish nation-building. Geopolitical considerations, including Cold War politics and important economic interests in the region, shielded the Turkish government from outside scrutiny as it continued the process of confiscation and destruction of Armenian patrimony. The small remaining Armenian population, concentrated in Istanbul, could do little to protect what remained of the



religious and secular heritage in the Armenian heartland. Absorbed within the Soviet Union, a geographically small Soviet Socialist Armenian Republic could do little to protect heritage outside its borders, especially given the Bolshevik doctrine of culture as serving “more universal” human needs that transcend all nationality. The photographic output of the hundreds of Armenian photographers who had vanished during the genocide would remain hidden away, for the most part, in the closets and attics of the Armenian diaspora around the world. Some little-studied photographic archives do exist in isolated locations around the world, including Venice, Paris, and greater Boston. Additionally, some photographic evidence of the lost Armenian heritage can be found scattered in a variety of missionary archives, including those of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions at Harvard University. Reconstructing the Memories of the Armenian Homeland Beginning in the 1970s, the pioneering work of Ruth Thomasian, the founder of the Massachusetts-based, Project SAVE Armenian Photography Archive, played a crucial and timely role in preserving the Armenian photographic heritage. With limited resources, she and her small staff of mostly volunteers, collected and preserved over 45,000 photographs and their related stories. While the collection spans both the pre- and post-­ genocide periods, this resource is invaluable for any effort to reconstruct Armenian life as it was lived in the Armenian homeland. The digitalization of this unique collection has been slowly taking place, providing a rich documentation of Armenian cultural life. Historians, writers, and artists have employed this visual treasure and the accompanying written record in the creation of new cultural products. In March 1999, the first attempt to marshal digital technology and the Internet to reconstruct lost Armenian heritage was launched. Though limited in scope, this ongoing project, known as VirtualANI (, has grown over the years. Initially focused on documenting the ruined Armenian medieval city of Ani (ninth to fourteenth century) that lies on the Turkish side of the border with Armenia, the site has been expanded to include Armenian architectural heritage across Anatolia. While the city of Ani fell into decline in the early fourteenth century, Turkish government neglect and, in many instances, intentional destruction have accelerated the disappearance of this city, once the capital of the Armenian Bagratuni kingdom. Known as the “city of a thousand and one churches,”



Ani boasted the presence of hundreds of ornately carved and frescoed stone churches. At its height in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Ani had a population of over 100,000 at that time, exceeding that of Constantinople. As it has grown, the website VirtualANI now documents dozens of churches and monasteries outside Ani that had functioned and flourished before the genocide of 1915. While the city of Ani is now protected as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, none of the signage or documentation at the site identifies the city as Armenian. The distinctive Armenian alphabet appears in the frescoes and carvings on the site, but the Turkish word for Armenian, “Ermeni,” has been erased, further enforcing the collective amnesia of the Turkish public. Today only 34 intact and partially functioning churches, mostly in Istanbul, remain of the approximately 2300 that existed before the genocide. The vandalism and destruction of these and other monuments continues to this day. A project of broader scope, a digital web-based project to reconstruct Ottoman Armenian village and town life, was launched in 2010. Known as Houshamadyan (, the website has grown at a rapid rate and employs an extensive array of documents, scholarly articles, maps, photographs, and drawings. The word “houshamadyan” holds a special meaning for post-genocide Armenians and is explained by the website’s creators: ‘Houshamadyan’ is a complex word, made up of ‘housh’ (memory) and ‘madyan’ (book) – which can mean either ‘register’ or ‘parchment manuscript’  – putting the words together. We think that the use of the word ‘madyan’ here has a special importance. Thus in normal circumstances it would have been better to use the word ‘kirk’ (book), thus making the usual word ‘houshakirk’. But in the post-catastrophe era authors have considered it generally more suitable to title their books ‘houshamadyan’ which was less well known and possibly even created in those times. We suppose that the word ‘madyan’ in this instance contains meanings of distant or completely lost times. These books then are post-catastrophe productions.8

The aim of the sponsors is to create a participatory and collaborative site of memory. In part, this explains the rapid growth of the site. An imaginative and knowledgeable staff curates the site but content is constantly being donated. The aims of the creators are explicitly spelled out on the site:



We are convinced that the internet is the most practical, influential and immediate means of carrying out the wide scope of work required to reconstruct the Ottoman Armenian memory. More than this, it is our aim to create a collaborative website to which each individual visitor will have the ability to make comments or input the things that are in his possession – photographs, books, memoirs, information, etc. – so that its pages may be enriched collaboratively.9

In recent years they have incorporated an Open Digital Archive as a means for individuals and families to share their personal collections on a digital platform. Family stories are told and documented with a rich array of “family photographs, diverse items including household objects, jewelry, carpets, embroidery, etc., as well as audio/audio-visual material, prints and manuscripts.”10 Unlike VirtualANI whose texts are written in English, everything on Houshamadyan is in three languages, English, Armenian, and Turkish. The creators explicitly acknowledge the shared history of these Armenian lands, and hope that a Turkish and Kurdish audience will be drawn to a culture and history that their government has done much to erase. While acknowledging the difficult road ahead, the creators hope that their project can contribute to change within Turkey that will reverse, to use Lemkin’s words, the imposition of the oppressor’s national pattern on the lands of Anatolia and the Armenian Highlands: “Finally we are convinced that our work on the reconstruction of the memory of the life lived by Ottoman Armenians will become even richer and more abundant when we turn today’s inhabitants of these areas – individuals who are immediately linked to the ‘soil and water’ of these places – into participants.”11 Whether intentional or not, the reference to “soil and water” can be interpreted as an implicit critique of the concept of “blood and soil” that animated the ideology of the Young Turk nationalists and their heirs who were responsible for the genocidal cleansing of the lands that now constitute the Turkish Republic.12 Memory Work Within Turkey: My Photography Memory Project Beginning a little over a decade ago, individuals and organizations within and outside of Turkey began partnering to directly address the erasure of Armenians from the collective memory of the Turkish public. Visual media have played a central role in these memory projects. Two organizations within Turkey have taken a leadership role in supporting these projects:



The Hrant Dink Foundation and Anadolu Kültür. The Dink Foundation is a living memorial to its namesake, Hrant Dink, a journalist, editor, and advocate for peace and reconciliation, who was assassinated in 2007 by Turkish nationalists. The Foundation sponsors ongoing people exchanges of journalists, artists, and students with the Republic of Armenia. They have also sponsored public conferences, lectures, and cultural events to expose the Turkish public to the history of the Armenian presence in the region. The second leader in these endeavors is Anadolu Kültür, a Turkish not-for-profit founded in 2002 by the philanthropist and advocate for cultural understanding and dialogue, Osman Kavala.13 Anadolu Kültür employs the arts in the service of social justice and ethnic tolerance. In 2009, they created DEPO (Tütün Deposu), a converted tobacco warehouse in the Tophane neighborhood of Istanbul that serves as a gallery space for exhibitions, critical debate, and cultural exchange. I have worked with both organizations, but Anadolu Kültür has been the chief sponsor of my memory projects. The period between 2008 and early 2013 was marked by some significant changes in the political climate within Turkey. Beginning in 2008, a thaw in relations between the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Turkey led to the signing of the Zurich Protocols in October 2009. The Protocols were intended to engender the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the opening of their closed borders, thus lifting a de facto Turkish blockade of Armenia. While the thaw in relations on the governmental level did not last, the impetus for memory work within Turkey and between Turks and Armenians in the Republic and the diaspora led to many new projects, including my own. My memory project on the reconstruction of Armenian cultural heritage began in earnest in 2011. There are four related aspects to this memory work. For convenience, I identify them as: (1) the photography and multimedia exhibitions; (2) the publications; (3) digital media and film production; and (4) the memory sites. Each would not have been possible without the ability to digitize vast quantities of photographs and documents, making them available in different formats and places. I can only highlight some aspects of the memory work and the responses we received. While the work is ongoing, considerable roadblocks have arisen since late 2015. Some of these setbacks will be discussed in the conclusion. Working with Anadolu Kültür, we used their exhibition space in DEPO as the launching pad for our first joint effort to reverse the collective amnesia regarding Armenians in modern-day Turkey. We organized a series of



photography exhibitions that tell the story of one extended Armenian family—my mother’s family, the Dildilians—in Ottoman Turkey from the 1870s to their expulsion in late 1922. Two generations of the Dildilian family, beginning with my grandfather Tsolag in 1888, were photographers. I am the fortunate guardian of much of the family’s photography archive that includes upwards of 1000 photographic prints and glass negatives from the Ottoman period. In addition, we have a large number of original documents and correspondence from this period. The process of organizing and scanning this vast collection began in 2009. I was also fortunate to borrow additional prints from a private collection that had once belonged to a missionary family who taught at the college where my grandfather worked as a photographer. The college, known as Anatolia College, was originally founded at the urging of the Armenians in the Marsovan area of north central Anatolia. The student population had been predominantly Armenian, along with a large proportion of the faculty and staff. During the Turkish war for independence the school was forced to close and relocate to Thessaloniki, Greece. We were fortunate that the college library had recently scanned and digitized their photography archive, a significant portion of which was produced by members of my family before the college’s relocation to Greece. Early discussions regarding the project led us to conclude that bringing original prints and negatives to Istanbul posed too great a Consequently, we decided to use reproductions. There had been earlier incidents where exhibitions had been disrupted or attacked by extremists, including one that involved photography documenting the Istanbul Pogrom of September 6–7, 1955. This was another episode in the ethnic cleansing of minorities in Turkey. Greek, Armenian, and Jewish businesses, religious buildings, and residences were pillaged and destroyed in the pogrom, which led to the large exodus of the remaining Greek population of Istanbul. The violence took many lives in both the Greek and Armenian communities. An exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the pogrom in the same Istanbul neighborhood as that of our venue was partially destroyed in a premeditated mob attack.14 As a result, our exhibition budget included an amount set aside for extra security for the show. While there was an immense amount of work required to pull together all the components of the exhibition, much credit has to be given to multiple members of my family. Across two generations, they documented their lives and their community both with photographs and with extensive written and oral memoirs. Their story is told and richly illustrated in



hundreds of photographs that survived the genocide and its aftermath. They went to great lengths to protect and preserve this rich trove of documentary evidence in the face of much turmoil and violence. It sometimes boggles the mind to think that hundreds of glass negatives survived a harried journey from central Anatolia to the Black Sea coast, and then a perilous sea journey to Constantinople, and finally to a refugee camp outside Athens. The journey did not end here, for they were yet to survive the Nazi occupation of Athens, the Greek civil war, and then another ocean journey to the United States. Much of the family’s photography and writings can be seen as an attempt to bear witness to the suffering they underwent as an oppressed minority in Turkey.15 For the most part, these photographs do not directly depict this suffering, though some do. What they do bear witness to, is the loss of a once vibrant and culturally advanced Armenian nation. The exhibition we created was entitled “Bearing Witness to the Lost History of an Armenian Family Through the Lens of the Dildilian Brothers, 1872–1923” (in Turkish: “Bir Ermeni Ailesinin Yitik Geçmişine Tanıklıklar: Dildilian Kardeşlerin Objektifinden, 1872–1923”)16 (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1  Opening wall display with enlarged photograph of the surviving members of the Dildilian family



So as not to conflict with the public memorial activities taking place in Taksim Square and other sites in Istanbul on April 24, the traditional Armenian Genocide commemoration day, we opened the exhibition a day later, on April 25, 2013. The timing thus had symbolic resonance. The exhibition was one of the largest and best-attended exhibitions hosted by Depo.17 More than 150 photographs were reproduced in panels and wall displays across two floors of the gallery. A narrative history richly illustrated with photographs and drawings produced by my grandfather, Tsolag, and his brother, Aram, covered the walls of one floor of the gallery. A talented Turkish-Armenian writer Anna Turay divided the narrative into 27 vignettes, each illustrated with relevant photos and drawings. The narrative began with the Dildilian family’s early years in the 1870s in their ancestral home of Sebastia (modern-day Sivas) and concluded with their forced exile to Greece in 1922. A small segment covered their refugee experience in 1923. The wall texts were in Turkish, with a free booklet containing the English translation for non-Turkish speakers. The photos were captioned in both Turkish and English. Our goal was to place the events of the genocide within the larger context of the life of the family and the Armenian community. The emphasis was on the loss, not the violence, of the events of 1915. We made the conscious choice to use the word “genocide” (in Turkish, “soykırım”) sparingly, with only one instance in the wall narrative and another, a passing reference, in my introductory essay for the exhibition. For those who wanted to explore the genocide further, detailed informational panels were created on the second floor of the gallery. Understandably, the word “genocide” could not be avoided here, but still, it was sparingly used, with the section devoted to the genocide entitled “Date of Death: 1915.” The second floor was primarily devoted to thematic displays that provided more information and photographs portraying different aspects of Armenian community life. Anatolia College, the American missionary school that played a central role in the life of the family and the Armenians of central Anatolia, was given prominence. Besides the photographic work the family had done for the college, members of the family had studied and taught at the school. A section highlighted the Armenian role in the development of photography, displaying examples of the studio work of the Dildilian brothers. There were also many photos of orphans after the war. The family founded an orphanage and helped the American-led humanitarian efforts in the region, working primarily for Near East Relief.



A conscious effort was made to provide spaces for people to sit and reflect on the story they were experiencing. The designer of the exhibition, Kirkor Sahakoglu, a Turkish Armenian whose family was forced to Turkify its surname, created a darkened space, set off from the main exhibition, for people to light candles in memory of those who were killed. The room contained dozens of portraits of members of the family who did not survive the death marches. Also displayed were large group photos of Armenian intellectuals and educators who perished in 1915. A musical soundscape created from an Armenian liturgical requiem played softly in the background. Another vital component of the exhibition was the direct testimony of the Dildilian family survivors. I was fortunate to have more than three hours of a video interview that my mother recorded in 1989, in which she recounted memories of her childhood in Marsovan. In addition, her older brother Ara had recorded an audio interview in 1968. The recording had only recently been discovered in the archives of Columbia University in New York. Between the two recordings we had seven hours of testimony, which we digitalized and edited down to 22 minutes. We subtitled the video in Turkish and played it in a continuous loop in a specially-created alcove of the gallery. Ara, the older sibling, had first-hand experience of the deportations, having been eight years old at the time. Since his was an audio interview, we illustrated his words with additional photos from the collection. At one point in the interview, Ara provides an emotionally distressing account of watching his neighbors being deported by oxcart. He is handed their soon-to-be-orphaned young child. In the past, Ara had been the child’s babysitter. Our family kept this orphan for the rest of the war years, returning him to his only surviving relative at the end of the war. In contrast, we selected segments of my mother’s interview in which she describes happy memories of her childhood in the warm and loving family environment of her home in Marsovan. A leading Turkish newspaper Radikal and Hürriyet TV posted the videos on the Internet. Now available on YouTube, they have been viewed thousands of times.18 Turkish media coverage was extensive in terms of both the mainstream media and more progressive outlets. CivilNet, an online Armenian news media outlet in Yerevan, live-streamed both the exhibition and a discussion panel we had organized. School groups, primarily from the Armenian schools of Istanbul, were given tours, and I was privileged to lead one such group.



On October 30, 2013, we opened a redesigned exhibition in Merzifon (known to Armenians as Marsovan), the hometown of my family where, for nearly 30 years, my grandfather’s generation worked and raised their children before their expulsion in late 1922. Much of the Dildilian photographic output took place there. It was also the town where they survived the genocide. As photographers essential to the army’s war effort and the needs of the local government, the family was exempted from the deportation. Yet they were still required to “convert” to Islam and were given Turkish names and identity papers. During the early years of the genocide, they heroically rescued and hid young men and women in their homes. Merzifon today is almost exclusively an ethnically Turkish town, with little that remains as a reminder of its once large and vibrant Armenian population. Armenians were the largest ethnic group in the town prior to 1915. Unlike Istanbul, Merzifon is in a more religiously conservative and nationalistic region. Yet even here I met progressive Turks who were willing to work with us to bring the exhibition to their community. A redesign of the Istanbul exhibition was necessary because the Merzifon exhibition space was a recently restored historic sixteenth-century taşhan, a building traditionally used as lodging and a market for traders. This was a commercial space where once Armenians, Turks, and Greeks would interact on a daily basis. The local chamber of commerce was approached for financial support and sponsorship. Surprisingly, they agreed. In addition to design changes warranted by the venue’s configuration, we agreed with our local hosts that the word “genocide” (“soykırım”) would not be used in the wall panel texts. We wanted to avoid any undue controversy, for it was important to have the story told. The narrative panels spoke for themselves as to what happened in 1915 and the years following. The story was not sugar-coated. The three original memoirs that were the basis of the narrative did not employ the term. Either the word had not been coined at the time or was not in common use when these were written. Armenians themselves had rarely used the term or its Armenian equivalent, “Hayots tseghaspanutyun” (Armenian Genocide), until the 1960s and ’70s. We inadvertently failed to catch one reference to the word in an important panel. We had attempted to substitute the term “Medz Yeghern” (“Great Calamity/Crime”), an older term that had once been used by some Armenians to characterize 1915, but in the revision process both terms were used. The panel, entitled “1915: Death March on Naked Feet,” contained the following passage: “April 24th is indelibly marked in the memory of Armenians as the ‘Medz Yeghern (Great



Calamity/Crime),’ becoming the date on which they will commemorate the ‘Armenian Genocide’ for generations to come.” (Translation of the original Turkish panel.) The panel in Istanbul was more straightforward: “April 24th is indelibly marked in the memory of Armenians, becoming the date on which they commemorate the Armenian Genocide for generations to come.” (Original Turkish: “Bu tarihten itibaren 24 Nisan, kuşaklar boyunca Ermenilerin belleğine ‘Ermeni Soykırımını Anma Günü’ olarak kazınacaktır.”) The discovery of our error was made the evening before the opening, so after hasty consultations with our hosts, we agreed to cover over the offending word with black tape. Given that the panels for 1915 had a black background with white lettering, we thought that this was the best solution at the time. Ironically, the tape drew people’s attention to the absence of the word. “Genocide” was more present in its absence than otherwise would have been. Members of my family traveled from the United States and France for the opening. Local media coverage of the exhibition and my family’s visit to the town was, for the most part, laudatory but skirted the issue of the genocide. A reporter from a national newspaper, Taraf, spent a day traveling with and talking to the family. This included a visit to the Dildilian family home that is currently occupied by a very warm and welcoming Turkish family whose grandparents moved into the house soon after our family was forced to leave in 1922. They came from Greece during the population exchange between the Greeks and Turks that marked the end of their conflict in 1923. An extensively detailed article was published with the front-page headline: “In the house of the grandfather who was forced to become Muslim” (“Müslümanlaştırılan dedelerinin evinde”). What was even more striking, and in many ways ground-breaking, was the first line of the article: “The Merzifon Dildilian family that left 8 years after the Armenian Genocide has returned with photographs.” The article used the “genocide/soykırım” word with no attempt at a qualification, for in Turkey today “the 1915 events” are often referred to as the “so-called” or “alleged” Armenian Genocide.19 We were pleased with the local turnout and the warm reception we received at the opening. Many educators and local officials attended. I was especially pleased to see many of the students, including some I had visited in their English-language classroom on an earlier visit to Merzifon. Their school building, once a hospital and part of the original Anatolia College, sat a few dozen yards up the street from my family’s home. Besides being



the photographer for the college, my grandfather operated the x-ray machine in the hospital. Despite the warm reception, two negative opinion articles soon appeared in the local newspapers denouncing the pro-Armenian theme of the exhibition. The exhibition ran for three weeks, but the local sponsors gave up their attempt to extend its run because of the negative publicity generated by these articles. On subsequent visits to the town I was shown fine hospitality and was greeted by the new mayor. These may all be tentative but positive signs that some in Merzifon are open to incorporating its Armenian past—selectively—into their collective memory. Our third exhibition opened in Diyarbakir, located in Turkey’s troubled Kurdish southeast, on April 20, 2014. The venue was the recently restored Armenian Apostolic church of Surp Giragos, considered the largest and most important church in the Middle East. Diyarbakir, known to Armenians as Dikranakert, was at one time home to one of the largest and wealthiest Armenian communities in the Ottoman Empire. The nearly complete destruction of its Armenian population was one of the most cruelly violent events of 1915. Some local Kurdish tribes played a significant role in the exterminations. But today local Kurdish leaders have reached out a hand of reconciliation to Armenians both in Turkey and in the diaspora. Public apologies have been made and commemorations undertaken. The local municipality even provided some funds for the church restoration. The municipality has also undertaken to reintroduce the languages of the ethnic communities who once lived in Diyarbakir. In keeping with this effort, our introductory panel used three languages, Armenian, Kurdish, and Turkish. A small Armenian community is reemerging in the area. Some of these individuals are considered the “hidden Armenians” of Turkey, for they either have recently discovered their Armenian ancestry or feel more comfortable living openly as Armenians because of changes in the region. We opened the exhibition on the same day as the first Easter service celebrated in the church since its restoration. It was also the beginning of a week of events marking the 99th anniversary of the genocide. Even though the photos on display did not relate directly to this region of Turkey, the overall reception was very positive. Local press coverage was uniformly positive. This may be attributed to the fact that the destruction of the Armenian population is understood by many Kurds as a precursor to the persecution of the Kurds. Kurdish ethnic identity has long been a target of the state’s nationalist project of creating an ethnically



homogenous Turkish homeland. Deportations and massacres have marked this project, though, unlike the Armenian case, Kurdish identity has not been erased from the landscape. There is a Kurdish proverb that emerged after the suppressed Kurdish rebellions in Turkey in the 1920s that says, “Armenians were for breakfast, Kurds for supper.” Out of this shared sense of oppression, a bond of understanding and recognition has emerged among some Kurds. Based on long and heartfelt conversations with local people, it is clear that the collective memory in this region encompasses memories of its former Armenian inhabitants. A strong oral tradition of historical memory transmittal may account for the fact that the state has not succeeded in sanitizing the Kurdish collective memory of the last century.20 Our fourth exhibition opened on November 3, 2015, in the Turkish capital of Ankara. The venue and the timing were significant in a number of respects. This was our first exhibition in a government-owned public gallery. The earlier exhibitions were in privately owned spaces. Çankaya Municipality Contemporary Art Center, operated under the local mayor’s office, is in a central district of the city where the Grand National Assembly (Parliament) and most government buildings are located. Sanart, the Association of Aesthetics and Visual Culture, an academic professional association, agreed to be the local organizer in cooperation with Anadolu Kültür. As in Merzifon, we limited the use of the word “genocide” but removed the black tape covering the word on the 1915 panel. We also included a controversial photo of the Armenian Anatolia College professors who were murdered in 1915. An introductory panel in Armenian was again included. A large and diverse audience attended the opening. Academics, artists, politicians, and members of the diplomatic community were present. Surprisingly, one member of Parliament from the Kemalist Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi or CHP) was also in attendance. Over the next few weeks we received many positive comments about the exhibition, especially on social media. Inevitably, there were also some negative responses. Two nationalist newspapers published articles condemning the exhibition. Most of the vindictiveness was directed at the mayor for allowing such a “scandalous exhibition” to take place. The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, referred to as the AK Parti) newspaper ran the headline “CHP Municipality Exhibition Scandal!” The mayor’s office released a press statement distancing itself from the content of the exhibition but highlighting the fact



that over the years a diverse set of opinions has been represented in the art center. While somewhat tepid in its language, freedom of expression was defended. Despite the charged political atmosphere created by the renewed violence in the southeast, the Syrian crisis, and the elections that saw the AK Parti lose and then regain its parliamentary majority, the exhibition, as originally planned, concluded its three-week run without incident. Exhibitions have continued to be mounted, albeit, not in the Republic of Turkey. Turning, finally, to the second component of the memory project, the publications: Two 34-page booklets, one in Turkish and the other in English, containing the exhibition texts were given away free of charge to those who attended the exhibitions. Demand for the Turkish version was high requiring multiple printings. The booklet was richly illustrated. A copy can also be downloaded from the Internet21 (Fig.  2). We subsequently produced an Armenian version to accompany a similar exhibition

Fig. 2  Cover of exhibition booklet with the three Dildilian siblings



that I organized in Yerevan. My book Fragments of a Lost Homeland: Remembering Armenia, a detailed but highly readable history of the Dildilian family based upon memoirs and a host of primary sources, was published first in English in 2015 and then translated into Turkish in 2016. With no credible explanation, my Turkish publisher has withheld publication for over four years. We suspect that behind the scenes pressure has prevented its publication. While we are uncertain that this is the case, we do know that there is self-censorship clearly taking place throughout the publishing industry in Turkey. Newspapers and publishing houses have been closed down under the current repressive regime of President Erdoğan.22 A second book, Dildilian Brothers—Memories of a Lost Armenian Home: Photography and the Story of an Armenian Family in Anatolia, 1888–1923, a bilingual Turkish-English photography book that includes nearly 200 photos and a condensed history of the family, was published in Istanbul in early 2015. Fortunately, this appeared just prior to the rapid decline in press freedom and rule of law that has marked Turkey since late 2015. Copies have been distributed to libraries, and it is our hope that they contribute to the public discourse about the fate of the Armenians in Turkey. The third component of our memory work is a collaborative project with the Digital Media and Design program of the University of Connecticut. With support from the University’s Norian Armenian Program, students and a highly accomplished filmmaker, Catherine Masud, created a film based upon the archive and story that employs the latest in digital technological wizardry to make the images come alive for a contemporary audience. New footage shot in Turkey, along with interviews old and new, are incorporated into the film. Our goal is to make this product digitally accessible to a wide audience. An earlier 45-minute film based upon the family’s 2013 visit to their ancestral home was produced in 2018 and premiered in Los Angeles, followed by a limited screening in Istanbul. A planned expanded version of our new film may incorporate elements from this film. The final component of our memory work is the identification and preservation of memory sites. While I have visited other areas of Turkey, especially those in the traditional heartland to the east, I have traveled more extensively in and around the towns of Merzifon, Amasya, Samsun, and Sivas. I have made multiple visits to Merzifon, for this is where the family home still exists and the only place where members of the family were able to survive. Well over 50 members of the family who lived



outside Merzifon, including all my grandfather’s uncles, aunts, cousins, and two of his siblings, perished in 1915. It was from the Merzifon region that the remaining members of the family were forced to flee in November 1922. Using family photographs, documents, and testimony, I have been able to identify important locations in the family narrative. While much has been destroyed, some remnants of the Armenian presence remain. Our goal is to make these sites more visible both to the local population and to Armenian visitors who in recent years have been making what have been called “pilgrimages” to historic Armenia. While not a significant part of the tourism industry, there may be a convergence of interests of the local authorities and Armenian groups that should encourage more such exchanges. One can never discount economic self-interest as a motivator for greater tolerance. These pilgrimages have generally been positive, though emotionally difficult experiences for visiting Armenians. For diasporic Armenian visitors, who may have been brought up with prejudicial stereotypes of Turks, such visits have usually contributed to mutual understanding. The Armenian Apostolic churches of Merzifon are gone, but the Catholic and Protestant churches remain, though radically altered. One is a municipal art center and auditorium and the other is a private facility for wedding receptions. Some of the buildings of Anatolia College still remain, including the hospital mentioned earlier. A goodly number of the Ottoman-era Armenian homes are still evident, though many are in various states of decay. Recent local interest in the town’s Ottoman heritage has led to some private efforts at restoration. An important monastery outside the town has one remaining building, which is sadly now used as a barn. Much has been identified, but the public recognition of these sites is yet to be accomplished. Tentative initial steps had been taken, but progress has been halted since the failed coup. One early small step took place in 2014. After meeting with the director and staff of the school that now occupies the hospital where my grandfather once worked, it became clear to me that no one knew the building’s prior history. After speaking with students in an English-language class and telling them about my family connection to the building, I broached the idea with the director of providing him with enlarged reproductions of old photos of the hospital that could be hung on the walls. He heartily agreed, and now these photos are prominently displayed in the hallways and classrooms of the school. It was important that they be properly captioned in Turkish so that a small but important part of Merzifon’s history



could be restored. As the photographer who once worked in the building, my grandfather is acknowledged in the captions. He has now symbolically returned to his old and long-forgotten place of work. In 2015, preliminary discussions took place with the mayor and our local exhibition hosts to find a way to honor and recognize the Armenian community that had once lived in Merzifon. The mayor had a long-term redevelopment plan for the former Armenian quarter of the town. Based on the photographic evidence and the documents I have gathered, we discussed a number of ways in which the former owners of the homes and shops of the neighborhood could “symbolically return”. As a start, and with the prior agreement of the current residents, a few simple wall plaques could be mounted on buildings. The two remaining church buildings could also be given more informative signage. Even a technological solution is possible with the use of Quick Response (QR) codes that could be used on smartphones to bring up more detailed information about the structures. Historic photographs from the Dildilian archive could be incorporated into these electronic accounts. It was important to be sensitive to the current residents’ fears that we were somehow attempting to literally take back lost Armenian property. The re-inscription of these Armenian names should not be misunderstood as a marker for reclaiming ownership. We also hope to stabilize and protect the crumbling barn that was once the important monastery outside the town. The final but important component of our project would be to have a permanent site where copies of the photographs could be displayed. Our local partners have identified a former Armenian residence that they hope to buy and convert into a guest house and museum, a place of memory where photographs and artifacts of the town’s recovered.

Conclusion Much of this early planning and activities have come to a stop. As mentioned earlier, the political climate already began to rapidly deteriorate in 2015. Authoritarian pressure had been mounting since the 2013 suppression of the Gezi Park protests and the crackdowns against dissent that followed. The truce between the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and the Turkish government collapsed in July of 2015. Negotiations had been ongoing for over two years for a solution to the violent conflict in the southeast of the country. The open atmosphere that allowed us to hold



our exhibition in Diyarbakir in the spring of 2014 was now completely gone. By the summer of 2015 such an exhibition became inconceivable given the failed PKK truce. The repercussions of the abortive July 15, 2016 coup d’état were a devastating blow to the memory work we had been pursuing for over six years. The purges, arrests, and prosecutions under the two-year long state of emergency that followed have severely impacted my Turkish partners and, for a time, restricted my travels to Turkey. The cleric Fethullah Gülen and his followers have been accused by the government of being the prime instigators of the coup. Gülen, a one-­ time ally of President Erdoğan, has been accused of leading a vast secret organization that had infiltrated every important institution in Turkish society, including the military, judiciary, education establishment, media, and commerce. Allegations of association with the Gülen movement, or what the government has labeled the Fethullah Terror Organization (FETO), has led to thousands of arrests. Most of the individuals who assisted me in Merzifon either have fled the country and sought asylum or, like the owner of the taşhan that hosted our exhibition, are in jail. I still maintain a connection with the mayor, but there is no movement on any of the memory projects in Merzifon. The greatest blow was the October 2017 arrest of my partner in these projects, Osman Kavala. As of this writing, he has been held in detention for over two years with little or no credible evidence presented against him for his alleged crimes. He is falsely accused of trying to overthrow the government and “attempting to abolish the constitutional order.” Kavala has been publicly accused by Erdoğan of secret plots and of funding the Gezi protests, calling him, without using his name, “the Soros of Turkey.”23 The charges are patently absurd and are all part of a campaign to destroy what had been a growing civil society movement within Turkey. The organizations Kavala had helped to create, Anadolu Kültür and DEPO, continue to operate, albeit with a heightened degree of caution. It is hard to gauge the progress we have made with our memory work, but the work will continue despite recent setbacks. We hope that incremental change has taken place and will continue to do so. No one, especially my partners, underestimates the dangers and obstacles that we face. Collective memory is difficult to change even in more open societies. Despite inevitable setbacks, openings have been made into a closed past— a past that once opened, can never be fully closed again.



Notes 1. “The historic cemetery at Julfa Ջ ղայ ի գերեզմանոց stood until 2006 on the banks of the Arax River between Iran and Nakhichevan, west of the ruined city of Jugha [Julfa]. Culturally and historically unique, Julfa was one of the oldest Christian cemeteries in the world. At its peak, it held more than 10,000 ornately carved khach‘k‘ars (stone crosses) dating from the fifteenth century and ancient ram-shaped stones, dragon stones, and tombstones. Until its destruction, Julfa was the most expansive Armenian cemetery and held the most significant collection of khach‘k‘ars anywhere in the world. Of these sacred artworks, once found on the banks of the Arax River, none now remain. From 1998 the cemetery was subjected to systematic willful destruction by [Azeri] military forces and, between 2005 and 2006, was definitively destroyed.” The Julfa Cemetery Digital Repatriation Project. The Project is creating a virtual 3-D cemetery based upon extensive photographic and documentary research. 2. Matthew Engel, “Germany Reclaimed: Berlin’s Jewish Revival,” New Statesman America, May 28, 2018, world/europe/2018/05/germany-reclaimed-berlin-s-jewish-revival; and David Crossland, “‘We Can Resume Our Common History’ New Paper Covers Revival of German Jewish Life,” Spiegel Online, January 04, 2012, y-new-paper-covers-r evival-of-ger man-jewishlife-a-807118.html 3. Lemkin, Acts Constituting a General (Transnational) Danger Considered as Offences Against the Law of Nations (1933), 4. ibid. 5. Raphael Lemkin, Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress, Carnegie Endowment for Peace, 2nd ed., Clark, NJ: The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd., 2008. P. 79. 6. With the exception of the noteworthy case of the Armin Wegner, the German military officer who took photographs of the death and deprivations of the deportation caravans, there exists little documentary photography of the slaughter itself. Wegner had hoped that photographic evidence would raise the alarm back in Germany and lead to a halt in the genocide. 7. See David Low, “Photography and the Empty Landscape: Excavating the Ottoman Armenian Image World,” Études arméniennes contemporaines, Vol.6, December 2015, 31–69. 8. “Introduction,” Houshamadyan website, https://www.houshamadyan. org/introduction/why-houshamadyan.html



9. Ibid. 10. “Open Digital Archive,” Houshamadyan website, https://www. 11. “Introduction,” Houshamadyan website, https://www.houshamadyan. org/introduction/why-houshamadyan.html 12. It is interesting to note that Houshamadyan, while located in virtual space, was created by individuals living and working in Berlin, Germany. Blut und Boden (Blood and Soil) were central to the ideology of National Socialism (Nazism). 13. Information can be found on their website: http://www.anadolukultur. org/en/about/3231 14. Steve Kettmann, “A Photo Show on a Pogrom 50  Years Ago Is Itself Attacked by a Mob,” New York Times, September 24, 2005; and “The Violence of History, in Pictures,” New York Times, September 28, 2005. 15. Their story is told in my book, Fragments of a Lost Homeland: Remembering Armenia, London: I. B. Tauris, 2015. 16. Some of the following exhibition descriptions are based, in part, upon my illustrated chapter, “Collective Memory, Memorialization and Bearing Witness in the Aftermath of the Armenian Genocide,” published in my co-­ edited book, Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Genocide and Memory, Jutta Lindert & Armen T.  Marsoobian, eds. New  York: Springer, 2018, 305–320. 17. An illustrated description of the exhibition along with links to press reports can be found on DEPO’s website: event/exhibition-bearing-witness-to-the-lost-history-of-an-armenianfamily-through-the-lens-of-the-dildilian-brothers-1872-1923/ 18. Turkish authorities have blocked YouTube on a number of occasions over the last dozen years, most recently in 2016. 19. Müjgan Halis, “In the House of the Grandfather Who Was Forced to Become Muslim,” Taraf. May 2, 2013, front page. Taraf (which translates into “Side” in English) was a liberal-leaning newspaper in Turkey founded in 2007 but closed down on July 27, 2016, under a statutory decree during the state of emergency after the 2016 failed Turkish coup d’état attempt. Unsubstantiated claims that alleged their association with the Gulenist coup plotters were given for the closure. The government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has effectively closed down or silenced all independent media and newspapers since the failed coup. 20. The end of the ceasefire between the Turkish government and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) has resulted in calamitous destruction and violence in southeast Turkey, including Diyarbakir. Many historic buildings have been damaged or destroyed and the government has expropriated the Surp Giragos church. What had been the old quarter of the walled city, the



neighborhood that had once been heavily Armenian, has been demolished and cleared as a security measure. 21. http://librar arg=905112343 or uploads/2018/08/kitap_ince_ENG-1.pdf 22. On Reporters Without Borders’ current World Press Freedom Index, Turkey is ranked 157 out of 180 countries. According to Freedom House, as of 2017, Turkey is labeled “Not Free” with regard to press freedoms with a score of 76 out of 100, with 100 the worst. 23. Dani Rodrik, “A Good Citizen Jailed in Turkey,” New York Times, November 3, 2017.

Bibliography Crossland, David. 2012. ‘We Can Resume Our Common History’: New Paper Covers Revival of German Jewish Life. Spiegel Online, January 04. https:// Accessed 8 Nov 2019. DEPO Istanbul. Bearing Witness to the Lost History of an Armenian Family Through the Lens of the Dildilian Brothers 1872–1923. Accessed 25 Oct 2019. Engel, Matthew. 2018. Germany Reclaimed: Berlin’s Jewish Revival. New Statesman America, May 28. germany-reclaimed-berlin-s-jewish-revival. Accessed 8 Nov 2019. Freedom House. 2017. Turkey Profile. Accessed 8 Nov 2019. Halis, Müjgan. 2013. In the House of the Grandfather Who Was Forced to Become Muslim. Taraf, May 2. Houshamadyan. Introduction: Why Houshmadyan? https://www.houshamadyan. org/introduction/why-houshamadyan.html. Accessed 8 Nov 2019. Kettmann, Steve. 2005a. A Photo Show on a Pogrom 50  Years Ago Is Itself Attacked by a Mob. New York Times, September 24. ———. 2005b. The Violence of History, in Pictures. New York Times, September 28. Lemkin, Raphael. 1933. Acts Constituting a General (Transnational) Danger Considered as Offences Against the Law of Nations. Madrid, October 14–20.



———. 2008. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation, Analysis of Government, Proposals for Redress, Carnegie Endowment for Peace. 2nd ed. Clark: The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. Lindert, Jutta, and Armen T. Marsoobian, eds. 2018. Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Genocide and Memory. Berlin: Springer. Low, David. 2015. Photography and the Empty Landscape: Excavating the Ottoman Armenian Image World. Études arméniennes contemporaines 6: 31–69. Maarsoobian, Armen T. 2017. Reimagining a Lost Armenian Homeland: The Dildilian Photography Collection. London: I. B. Tauris. Marsoobian, Armen T. 2015a. Fragments of a Lost Homeland: Remembering Armenia. London: I. B. Tauris. ———. 2015b. Dildilian Brothers  – Memories of a Lost Armenian Home: Photography and the Story of an Armenian Family in Anatolia, 1888–1923, [Dildilyan Kardeşler – Kayip Bir Ermeni Evin Hatıraları: Anadolu’da Ermeni Bir Ailenın Fotoğrafları ve Öyküsü, 1888–1923]. Istanbul: Birzamanlar Yayıncılık. Reporters Without Borders. 2019. World Press Freedom Index. en/ranking. Accessed 8 Nov 2019. Rodrik, Dani. 2017. A Good Citizen Jailed in Turkey. New York Times, November 3. The Julfa Cemetery Digital Repatriation Project. www.julfaproject.wordpress. com, ND. Accessed 8 Nov 2019.

Let Them Speak: An Effort to Reconnect Communities of Survivors in a Digital Archive Stephen Naron and Gabor Mihaly Toth

Introducing Let Them Speak Tens of thousands of Holocaust testimonies have been recorded since the Second World War. With the rise of digitization, many of them are becoming available online. The mass digitization of testimonies is not only Both authors contributed equally to this chapter. The authors have joint responsibility for the last concluding section. Of the six sections in this chapter, Stephen Naron is primarily responsible for the first three and Gabor Mihaly Toth has primary responsibility for the latter three. S. Naron (*) Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University Library, New Haven, CT, USA e-mail: [email protected] G. M. Toth USC Shoah Foundation and USC Viterbi School of Engineering–Signal Analysis Interpretation Laboratory (SAIL), Los Angeles, CA, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 E. M. Zucker, D. J. Simon (eds.), Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




opening new directions for Holocaust Studies but also raising concerns and new questions. How can digitization give rise to a new understanding of Holocaust experiences? What can digital tools teach us? How can one conduct ethical research on testimonies by using digital tools? How can we build an ethical archive in a purely digital environment? In this paper, we will address these questions by introducing a new digital anthology of testimonies. Let them Speak (LTS) is a digital, interactive anthology or data edition of 3000 audio and video English language testimonies, including complete transcripts, from three different collections: Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and University of Southern California Shoah Foundation Visual Archive. At the moment, it is a work-in-progress available only on the intranet of Yale University; its publication is forthcoming. LTS is not only  a “data release.” It is a monograph and a scholarly edition with specific digital tools that unlock a large number of interviews by addressing historiographical questions and adhering to the ethical legacy of the organization that funds and supports LTS, the Fortunoff Video Archive. Equipped with specific exploratory tools, which are being developed in collaboration with Yale Library’s Digital Humanities Laboratory, LTS makes victims’ perspective and collective experience investigable for the research community. In this chapter, we discuss the capabilities and potential of LTS, while considering the ethical dimensions that emerge with the application of digital humanities tools to Holocaust testimonies. We begin by placing LTS within the larger context of the mission of the Fortunoff Video Archive by examining how the roots of the collection in the survivor community imbue it with a concern for the protection and well-being of participating witnesses. In the first part, Stephen Naron, the director of the Fortunoff Archive, also offers a short history of the collection. This is followed by a detailed description of LTS by its editor, Gabor Mihaly Toth. The second part presents LTS by discussing what it contains, how it functions, and its potential to contribute a new approach to reading and studying testimony and survivor memory. The Fortunoff tradition, whose values have influenced various policies and procedures related to access, preservation, and research in the analogue world, provides a model with which we can  consider the benefits and potential risks  of applying  digital humanities tools such as LTS to genocide survivor testimonies.



From Community of Survivors to Community of Testimonies and Memories In 2018, under the auspices of the Fortunoff Archive (FVA), three leading institutions responsible for large collections of Holocaust testimonies agreed to make nearly 3000 transcripts and some video material available in LTS. The Fortunoff Archive  provided access to 180 transcripts and videos recorded from the oldest portion of its collection dating between 1979 and 1982. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) contributed 1500 interviews recorded between the 1970s and the late 1990s. The Visual Archive of the Shoah Foundation at the University of Southern California (USC VHA) provided 1000 interview transcripts recorded in the 1990s. The design of LTS has been informed by two core values  drawn from the Fortunoff Archive’s tradition: community and solidarity with survivors. However, the transition of the unique collection of testimonies underlying LTS to a new format demanded a reinterpretation of these values. In the following sections, we will discuss how the adaption of these values in a new digital environment opens new directions for research on testimony and memory, while at the same time deliberately placing limitation on technology-driven investigations. As the last survivors die, the community of living witnesses will cease to exist. Nonetheless, their stories will live on and endure through the digitization and transcription of the original audio/video interviews from analogue form. This we suggest gives rise to a new community, the “community” of testimonies and the shared memories that will be available to future generations. Scholarship has always viewed testimonies as representations of a community where individual and collective memories live together.1 However, until now only controlled vocabulary in catalogue records, like at the Fortunoff Video Archive, or the sophisticated indexing system of the Shoah Foundation Visual History  Archive supported the investigation of testimonies as a community. These indexes and “finding aids” are mainly constructed with the biographical and historical information compiled by catalogers and archivists. By drawing on these indexes, the researcher can identify groups of survivors who come from the same town or were deported to the same camp. They seldom explore testimonies as a community of shared emotions, traumas, and psychological experiences. This is understandable, for, as Todd Pressner writes in “Ethics of the Algorithm,” it is “challenging to mark-up emotion in a set of tables” (Pressner 2016, 193). As an



illustration of this, a leitmotif in testimonies is the moment when a survivor recounts the last moment he or she saw a family member. Catalogue records do not always account for these moments. On the surface, the memory of separation from one’s loved ones might seem to be a schematic memory or one that would be obviously shared by many who experienced the Holocaust. Some survivors, in fact, recount this episode without much emotional display. Nevertheless, there are interviews where crying and long pauses follow or precede the narration of the moment when the interviewee saw his or her loved one for the last time.2 The full emotional weight of the experience of separation can be understood only by watching and comparing many testimonies where interviewees describe this experience. As we shall later see, LTS provides one tool to form a community of shared emotional experiences, which is meant to perpetuate the community of living victims after their death. Perpetuating “community,” in a virtual sense, as a central value in the new digital world helps facilitate the exploration of individual testimonies as part of a larger community—a community in which thoughts, beliefs, hopes, and traumatic experiences of individual victims are not isolated, but rather are shared among a group with similar experiences. As such, their testimonies can enter into dialogue with one another and complement each other. In this sense, the digital media can create virtual connections between survivors who are no longer living and who most probably never met one another when they were alive. Alternatively, it can provide those who did know each other when they lived to reconnect with one another as in the case of survivors from the same town or those who served in the same camp. There is even the possibility of bringing into dialogue multiple testimonies of a single survivor, taken over decades across different projects. By preserving and making them accessible, the digital media can thus continue the legacy of testimonies by and for survivors, their descendants, and their communities—many of which were physically destroyed during the war. Moreover, bringing testimonies into contact with one another actualizes their existence as a virtual community and gives voice to a form of solidarity.

Fortunoff Video Archive: A Community Project with an Ethical Approach LTS, funded by the Fortunoff Video Archive, shares the Archive’s commitment to community and solidarity. The precursor to the Fortunoff Video Archive was initiated in New Haven in 1979 as a grassroots organization



known as the Holocaust Survivors Film Project or HSFP. The HSFP was the creative spark of the psychiatrist and child survivor of the Holocaust, the late Dori Laub, and a local television personality, Laurel Vlock. The HSFP was the first sustained effort to videotape Holocaust survivors and witnesses. Working closely with the survivor community, the HSFP grew and expanded taping sessions to other local communities of survivors. In 1981, the original collection of 183 testimonies was deposited at Yale University, and the Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies opened its doors to the public in 1982. Since then, the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies has recorded and preserved witness testimonies in North and South America, Europe, and Israel and continues to do so. The collection of over 4500 testimonies comprising more than 12,000 hours is available to researchers, educators, and the general public. The Archive recently completed a large-scale digitization of the entire collection—resulting in an enormous digital archive. This transition to a digital archive opens enormous possibilities to remove barriers to access, and the Fortunoff Archive is now pivoting to efforts that encourage research with the collection as well as a number of new initiatives, both traditional and innovative.3 One such innovative use is a collaboration, that in a sense reconnects survivor testimonies in disparate collections into a new meta-­ collection, is LTS. This project, and all projects undertaken at the Fortunoff Video Archive, aims to maintain a balance between the needs of the modern research community and the Archive’s commitment to the well-being and trust of the survivor community that provided testimony. This sense of commitment, or solidarity, is a reflection of the collection’s roots in the survivor community that staffed, organized, and funded the Fortunoff Archive from its very inception. Regardless of form, digital or analogue, the Fortunoff Archive strives for an ethical approach to recording, cataloging, and making accessible the testimonies of the survivors  and witnesses who placed their trust in the organization. The process of stepping forward to give testimony can be a harrowing one. For many survivors, giving testimony to the HSFP was the first time they had ever discussed their experiences in a public setting. The HSFP’s embeddedness in the survivor community helped legitimize it in the eyes of the community, and also ensured that its policies and procedures were put in place with a focus on the well-being of the survivor. It was, after all, a grassroots effort of volunteers, including representatives from the survivor community. The most visible of these, in those early days, was William Rosenberg, the head of the Labor Zionist organization Farband in New Haven. Rosenberg would serve as president of the



HSFP and not only encouraged survivors to participate, but also raised significant funds for tapings. Another example of a survivor’s involvement is Dr. Dori Laub, one of the co-founders of the project, who served as a core interviewer, as well as an early interviewee. He and his mother were survivors from Czernowitz. Another survivor, one of the first to be taped in 1979, Eva B. (HVT-1) also participated as an interviewer in a number of tapings afterwards. Geoffrey and Renee Hartman were also instrumental in the growth of the archive. Renee was one of the first survivors to be taped by the project in 1979, and her involvement was the catalyst for his initial support of HSFP. As a child survivor who fled Frankfurt, Germany, on a Kindertransport, Geoffrey later gave testimony in 1989, as well as participated as an interviewer in several recordings over the years. The organization involved survivors at every level, whether that means outreach to potential candidates for giving testimony, holding board meetings and organizing tapings in their homes, or raising funds from the community to hire cameras, purchasing blank Umatic videotapes, and conducting the tapings.4 From the start, HSFP was very much an effort by survivors for survivors, an ethos, as well as an ethical consideration, that LTS aims to keep alive in the virtual world. Similarly, the interview methodology employed by HSFP, and later at the Fortunoff Video Archive, reflects the ethical approach born of connectedness to the survivor community. At its heart was the idea of empathic listening. In Testimony: Crisis of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, Laub described the ideal relationship between interviewer and interviewee in the testimonies as: a contract between two people, one of whom is going to engage in a narration of her trauma, through the unfolding of her life account. Implicitly, the listener says to the testifier: “For this limited time, throughout the duration of the testimony, I’ll be with you, all the way, as much as I can” (Laub 1992, 70). The relationship of the interviewer, as empathic listener, to the interviewee can also be described as similar to that between a teacher and a student. The witness is the expert in their life story, the teacher, and the interviewer the student. The goal of this approach is to build trust with the witness, as trust promotes the free flow of memory. Other efforts to record testimonies of Holocaust survivors conduct more structured interviews with a list of standard questions and time limits, or instructions for the interviewer to divide the interview into discrete periods—for example, prewar, wartime, and postwar.5 The Fortunoff Archive, by contrast,



ensures that the witnesses tell their stories the way they would like to tell it, starting from their earliest memories. Questions are also asked sparingly. The only questions asked by the interviewer are designed to clarify time and place, and should be phrased so that if the witness does not know the answer, there is no burden or pressure on the survivor to remember.6 This is also a form of respecting the silence of witnesses; later in this paper, we will explain how LTS also respects the silence of survivors. Laub’s emphasis on empathic listening also informed the manner in which the content of the archive was processed after recording.7 Earlier in the project, a decision was made not to produce transcripts of the testimony. There were several reasons for this, both practical and philosophical. The production of accurate, full transcripts was very complicated and expensive, and in the early days of the HSFP, resources were better expended to fund further recording sessions than transcription. Furthermore, if transcripts were available, some felt that researchers would not watch the testimonies. After all, watching testimony takes considerable time. It is much quicker to skim a transcript. Another legitimate objection to transcription was the belief that no transcript, no matter how good, could ever capture the full content of a testimony. Visual cues, tone of voice, and pregnant pauses could not be rendered adequately in a transcript. Misunderstandings would occur; quotations might inadvertently misrepresent the sensitive content of a testimony. Without transcripts, the researcher would be obliged to listen to the testimonies in their original, unedited form—to hear the voice of the survivors who stepped forward, often at great emotional cost, to give testimony. However, the advance of technology and changes in scholarly expectations are shifting the Archive’s policies on transcription, as the development of LTS makes clear; though this new platform, mainly built around transcripts, still follows the unwritten rule of oral history: transcripts must be always accompanied by the original audio/video recordings. LTS therefore strives to make both transcripts and audio/video recordings available.

How LTS Works: Finding Connections, Commonalities, and Heterogeneity “Before, the enemy’s purpose really was to see only one, that all the victims looked alike. And therefore these victims were ageless, faceless, nameless, and they had no private individuality. To be an individual there was dangerous. The best way to survive was to plunge into the mass and



become anonymous. And not to look at the SS men, hoping that if you don’t look at him, he won’t look at you. But it is a childish game of, not to see him, is to be unseen. And just the opposite happened. In spite of everything, every person responded uniquely. That means there was something unique left in every person to survive the war.” (USHMM, RG-50.165∗0133) These words by Elie Wiesel, recorded in a testimony that is part of LTS, pinpoint a key experience of victims: forced homogenization and elimination of all diversity by perpetrators. The experience of “we all looked alike” is narrated by many survivors. One of the capabilities of LTS is to locate such key experiences shared across witness testimonies. Implicitly, modern catalogue data also homogenizes victims’ experience and perspective. Keywords in catalogue records “standardize” testimonies; they suggest a schematic approach, and give the impression that beyond the narration of individual life experiences, testimonies are to a degree repetitive. The exploration of diversity behind standardized keywords describing thousands of interviews is almost impossible; one can listen and remember or take notes from only a limited number of interviews. However, the investigation of testimonies as a diverse community of shared emotions and experiences is an ethical imperative, to consider the “unique left in every person.” Researchers therefore need tools to explore what is shared among the diversity of experiences, which implies a direct engagement with the words of survivors. This is the idea at the center of LTS. Firstly, researchers need tools by means of which they can execute simple and more complex searches in transcripts; search helps to uncover connections and helps to discover communities around a similar emotional experience. In addition to the development of a traditional table of contents, where readers can browse, watch, and read testimonies, LTS therefore implements a sophisticated corpus linguistic search engine called BlackLab.8 If the researcher needs to find episodes of unwanted farewell, she or he can enter “last time I saw” into a search box. After a few seconds she or he is presented all occurrences of these terms over hundreds of testimonies. Search results are shown as a Keyword in Context (KWIC). KWIC view, a traditional way to present search results in corpus linguistics, highlights the searched terms and displays words preceding and following them (Manning and Schütze 1999, 31–34). By clicking on a search result, readers can immediately read or listen to the retrieved passage in the original interview, which is displayed with basic contextual information (camps, ghettos, and interview summary) extracted from catalogue records (see Fig. 1).9



Fig. 1  KWIC view of search results

At the same time, word search has its own drawbacks. It can entice researchers to skim testimonies, out of context, a risk that staff at the Fortunoff Archive wanted to try to avoid. More on this problem later. Furthermore, the way search results are displayed can lead to unconscious bias. For instance, the terms “last time” occurs 1527 times in the corpus. Readers might look at only the first results that are displayed and overlook the rest. Readers are therefore encouraged to shuffle and randomize results, which enables an unbiased retrieval process. Or alternatively, they can decide to be purposefully “biased” and filter search results in terms of meta-data such as camp, gender, and recording year. Word search thus facilitates the exploration of textual connections between testimonies, which is the first step to establish communities of shared experiences. Filtering by meta-data is the next step to discover further micro-­ communities, such as female victims or inmates of the same camp, within a larger community centered on a similar experience. Yet the exploration of testimonies as a community can also imply the discovery of heterogeneity behind a shared and seemingly schematic piece of memory. For instance, behind the experience of “last time I saw her/ him/them,” there is a rich heterogeneity: the person (husband, mother,



father, etc.) one saw for the last time; the historical circumstances; physical and emotional gestures that accompanied the unwanted farewell. The exploration of heterogeneity behind “last time I saw” gives rise to micro-­ communities of victims such as the community of those who went through the experience of seeing their mother for the last time at some point during their persecution. However, simply searching for “last time I saw my mother” would not retrieve the following sentence: And I remember my mother, I saw her last time then, and she was sitting and crying. (USC SHOAH VA, 7415)

To have sentences like the one above included in results for the “last time I saw,”  the reader of LTS can express his search as a pattern that allows the insertion of gaps and different combination of words into a hypothetical word sequence. BlackLab, the search engine empowering LTS, allows the use of Corpus Query Language (CQL), a pattern matching language used to retrieve word sequences with possible gaps in language resources.10 This paper cannot offer a comprehensive introduction into CQL; instead, it offers examples that shed light on how CQL can support the exploration of testimonies as a diverse community of experiences expressed in unique terms. For instance, the following query pattern expressed in CQL would also retrieve those occurrences of “last time I saw” that are associated with “mother,” but the interviewee does not use the word “mother” directly after or before “last time I saw.” ([word="mother"] []{0,5} [word="I"][lemma="see"] []{0,5} [word="last"] [word="time"]| [word="I"][lemma="see"] []{0,5} [word="mother"] []{0,5} [word="last"] [word="time"]) This CQL query retrieves those occurrences of “I saw my mother for the last time” that are preceded or followed by “mother” within a window of five words. Precisely, the pattern finds nine interviews accounting this experience. The narration of this experience in the nine interviews features heterogeneity in terms of physical gestures accompanying victims’ last meeting with their mother. To illustrate this diversity, here we quote two of them:



And in between the railroad track of Auschwitz, I saw my mother the last time. My mother turned her head away. My little sister waved to me a little bit. (USC SHOAH 1400) INTERVIEWER: You remember the last time you saw mother, father— SUBJECT: I saw the last time when—when we stood in the line. We kissed each goodbye. And then they didn’t let us even stay together, the Germans. The Gestapo was against even kissing goodbye or anything. Just disappear. And that’s it. And I couldn’t think of anything else. (Fortunoff Archive, MSSA HVT-157)

As these two examples demonstrate, pattern matching is an important tool to reveal plurality in a community of a shared emotion. The retrieval of shared experiences is, of course, limited by the fact that we use a great variety of linguistic strategies to describe a similar episode. The experience of “last time I saw her” can be expressed in many different ways. For example: • That’s the most unforgettable time, when I really felt I was saying goodbye to my mother for the very last time, that I’d never see her again. (USHMM, RG-50.156∗0058)

Or • I sat with my mother and my father the last time. I didn’t know it was the last time. (Fortunoff, MSSA HVT-150)

The former example reveals a recurrent linguistic strategy in testimonies. Instead of using the expression “last time I saw her” or its variants, interviewees often adopt the pattern “I never saw her again.” CQL can help to retrieve them as well: [word="never" | word="n't"] [word="again"]




As a whole, CQL helps to face the complexity of language and reveal the different ways victims described a given experience. More generally, CQL helps to explore diversity by uncovering micro-communities of victims using similar linguistic strategies to express a shared experience.



On the other hand, a fundamental problem with any word search, whether it is a complex pattern matching or a simple retrieval of a given term, is that one can only search for what one suspects to exist. Returning to our previous example, we narrowed the 1527 occurrences of “last time” to those where “mother” is mentioned in a close proximity, because we had assumed that the experience of “last time I saw my mother” existed. How can one retrieve associations with “last time” without imposing any pre-existing knowledge on the search process? A standard corpus linguistic tool, usually named collocation analysis, helps to resolve this problem. In short, collocation analysis is the study of the words that accompany another word or a sequence of words. In practice, after entering a term or a sequence of terms, tools for collocation analysis display those other words with which the original sequence is likely to co-occur. LTS has not yet implemented collocation analysis because it raises a potential ethical dilemma. Collocation analysis requires quantification. Within a window of five words left and right, there are hundreds of unique terms that accompany “last time.” To retrieve those that are in an associative relationship with “last time,” one needs to measure strength of association by means of quantitative tools. Inevitably, quantification reduces human experiences to numbers, which echoes perpetrators’ practice to regard victims as numbers.11 This experience is very well described in a short poem, entitled “I am not a number,” by a survivor of Auschwitz, whose testimony is part of LTS: I was trapped in the killing center of Auschwitz Surrounded by barbed wires, gas chambers, smoke and flame The Nazis tattooed a number on my arm 2-5-6-7-3 became my new name They tried to reduce me to a number Dehumanize me day by day (..) (USHMM, RG-50.030∗0435)

The ethical legacy of the Fortunoff Archive raises the question, to what extent ought one be able to quantify survivors’ experiences almost 75 years after the end of the war? The team behind LTS is still struggling with this question. But for the time being, implementation of collocation analysis is on hold; readers of LTS can only use word search and pattern matching to uncover associative relations between words in testimonies. Expanding the searchability of oral history interviews has its risks: it can lead to a simplistic view of testimonies as neutral historical sources. To avoid this misrepresentation, transcripts had not been prepared until very



recently in the Fortunoff Archive. Transcripts cannot represent the complexities of testimonies, which lie in that they combine voice and physical gestures with the expressivity of human language. Enabling readers to search through transcripts, and making audio / visual documents accessible as textual document might potentially lead to the view of oral history interviews as solely written sources. As said above, LTS attempts to, at the very least, reduce such misconceptions. Interviews can be heard and read in parallel, though some of the original audio / video recordings are not accessible (VHA has not given consent to make their videos available, and the Fortunoff Video Archive’s testimonies are currently only available at partner locations, not openly accessible on the worldwide web). Some audio/visual cues recorded in the transcripts, such as “laugh,” “cry,” and “sigh,” are also searchable. For instance, one can search for moments of crying that are in close proximity of “mother.” Similarly, long and short pauses in interviews can be retrieved. Well defined CQL patterns can locate moments of hesitation symbolized by a repetition of words. Hence, the exploration of textuality can support the analysis of audio/visual elements and vice-versa. Admittedly, keyword search is not a groundbreaking innovation, but when complemented with pattern matching it can be a powerful way to explore connections between interviews. The results of a search are very much determined by what one wants to find. Here we have seen how the retrieval of instances of a seemingly schematic and repetitive experience, for example, seeing one’s mother for the last time, can shed light on collective experience in all its diversity. The retrieved passages complement each other; they highlight the human and the individual behind a common experience; they let readers discover and appreciate each survivor’s unique stories. Word search is thus one of the gateways to study testimonies as a diverse community of shared experiences.

Inclusion of the Voiceless For the founders of the HSFP, solidarity with the survivor community meant that the testimonies recorded also served to commemorate those family members who did not survive, who did not live to share their experiences. Geoffrey Hartmann, one of Fortunoff Archive’s founders, viewed testimony as a document where survivors also give voice to murdered victims, observing that “[t]hough testimonies address the living frontally, often using warnings and admonishments, they also speak (..) for the dead



or in their name” (Hartmann 2002, 139). David Boder, one of the first to conduct audio interviews of survivors in the immediate aftermath of liberation, had a similar view. Hence the title of his collection of testimony transcripts: “I Did Not Interview the Dead,” which was published in 1949.12 Interviewees often mention the dead and their intention to perpetuate their memory. Giving a testimony is often motivated by the wish that the dead be remembered: I always wanted to have this recorded, the memory of my family and the memory of those who – who died. And it gives me satisfaction that I know it was recorded and they’re going to be remembered and they’re going to be heard about. It means a lot to me. (USC SHOAH VA, 6837)

Primo Levi, survivor and writer, argued that survivors cannot tell the experience of those who did not survive because the Saved and the Drowned are “two particularly well differentiated categories among men” (Levi 1959, 100). The Saved lived in a morally questionable “grey zone” that compromises their testimony. Still, our closest proxy to the voiceless victim is the survivor—even if the survivor is an anomaly. Although the survivor’s experience is hardly interchangeable with the experience of the dead, the voice of the survivor is the most authentic window to understand the perspective of the voiceless. After the death of the last survivor, testimonies will in turn be the most authentic historical sources to narrate and represent their perspective. Theory, technology, and philology have been combined to represent the experience of the dead, which also leads to a new representation of the collective experience. The reconstruction of the perspective of the nameless victim may seem to be an impossible exercise. It is impossible to reconstruct the individual and unique experience of the voiceless. We can, however, reconstruct what the dead likely experienced. Testimonies, viewed as a collection consisting of the pieces of the collective experience, must contain a set of experiences that could have been the experience of any of the six million victims. They recur in the testimony of many victims. LTS uses natural language processing and text mining to retrieve recurrent experiences in thousands of interviews.13 The goal of the editor was to reveal emotional experiences or traumas related to common physical experiences and emotional experiences faced by many of the survivors. Any number of experiences could have been chosen, but the editor of LTS



narrowed to eight experience domains to demonstrate the possibility of this approach in an anthology: 1. Guilt 2. Shame

3. Fear 4. Nakedness

5. Maltreatment 6. Run

7. Shake 8. Yell

In short, the retrieval process produced groups of accounts that contain similar recurrent experiences in these domains. These fundamental physical and emotional experiences are part of the collective experience of the camps, of survivors, and surely many of those who did not survive. To represent these pieces of the collective experience, the LTS project adopts the concept of “testimonial fragments” from philology. The concept of testimonial fragments was used to represent the ideas of pre-­ Socratic philosophers. By the early medieval period, the complete works of philosophers predating Socrates had disappeared—either lost or destroyed. Nevertheless, philosophical works from later Greek thinkers contained fragments of their thought, which are then described as testimonial fragments—fragments that testify to something lost (Kirk and Raven 1962). As an analogy, we do not have access to the individual experience of those who died, but some of what they certainly experienced lives on as testimonial fragments—common, shared experiences represented in the collective experience across survivor testimonies. Readers of LTS can browse and view testimonial fragments as branches of a hierarchical tree (see Fig. 2). Since it is impossible to reconstruct the exact human context of the dead (when they were born; what they did in life, what and how they felt), testimonial fragments are decontextualized. The decontextualized representation of fragments in LTS is an attempt to create meaning from portions of recounted memory, but it also carries with it the potential to provoke controversy. By removing an utterance from its original context, certain aspects of the message are inevitably lost. Linguists, philosophers, historians, and other scholars frequently emphasize that the meaning of a given word, concept, or a longer textual fragment, is largely determined by its extra-textual context. When, why, and how one utters a sentence shapes the message to be conveyed. In other words, an utterance is always part of a discursive, narrative framework, and this programmatic, technological decontextualization without doubt carries with it a degree of loss as the fragment is removed from the context in



Fig. 2  Visualization of testimonial fragments as leaves of a hierarchical tree

which it was uttered. Take for instance the following two testimonial fragments, both conveying a similar traumatic experience: …terrible picture to see, you know, a person who’s dead that’s shaking like this. (USC SHOAH VA 5559) …a man shivering, naked, half dead in a dog cage, dying slowly. (USHMM, RG-50.926∗0006)

The experience of seeing victims dying and shaking is, sadly, a frequent theme in testimonies, though its narrative and discursive context differs from interview to interview. The first fragment is drawn from Mark Bronstein’s testimony, and is as part of his retelling of his father’s death. The corpse of Mark Bronstein’s father was delivered to a cemetery on a cart. Mark, walking behind the cart, recalls seeing the body of his father “shaking” on the cart, as it moved along the uneven road. The narrative framework of the first fragment is a father’s funeral seen through the eyes of a child. The second fragment, extracted from the testimony of Kathy Preston, is also uttered in the context of a father’s death. Kathy Preston’s father had stolen a piece of bread, and as a punishment he was locked up in a cage. Kathy Preston recalls seeing her father shaking as he died in the cage. As she makes it clear in her testimony, she recounts this episode to illustrate the cruelty of the concentration camp. The danger of decontextualizization is without a doubt present, as important details surrounding



each testimony fragment is obscured. Without contextual details, fragments may depersonalize the traumatic experience they are meant to render. Digital representation can both cause this depersonalization, and help us find ways to address this aspect of using testimony fragments. Whereas some context can be lost, the goal is that something else can be gained— or at least that loss mitigated. For instance, by clicking on any fragment, the reader is invited to read or listen to a fragment as part of the original interview where it was retrieved and extracted from. In short, fragments are meant to represent pieces of collective experiences; and interviews behind fragments are the unique and individual manifestations of these collective experiences. The digital technology enables one to oscillate between potentially shared, collective experiences and the individual. The tree of fragments thus functions like an advanced book index offering readings paths that guide the reader through collective experience. As a whole, testimonial fragments in LTS are meant to be a very possible representation of the psychological and physical reality in which millions lived and died. This reality has been presented in film, poetry, literature, and art. LTS takes an approach that, extrapolated from the common experiences in survivor accounts, can give us a possible glimpse of a reality also experienced by those who did not return. Attempting to trace their perspective in testimonies and making this accessible to the research community is a new form of solidarity in the twenty-first century. This is the perpetuation of the solidarity that called the Fortunoff Archive into existence.

Making Testimonies Accessible: Past and Present Even though LTS strives to continue the ethical legacy that informed the Fortunoff Archive in the last 40 years, there is an aspect in which it cannot be completely consistent with Fortunoff tradition. This is giving complete access to the names of witnesses and making testimonies citable without permission of witnesses. The concern for the well-being of the survivors and the protection of their privacy have impacted the way testimonies were catalogued in the Fortunoff Archive. No public facing information containing references to the collection contain the surnames of the survivor. Before the testimonies came to Yale, after a local broadcast of a documentary, one of the survivors received threatening phone calls. That experience informed a decision to



protect survivor anonymity by truncating the last name of any appearance of a survivor’s name, in print or on screen. Every testimony’s catalog record in Yale’s online public access catalog follows these rules as well to ensure anonymity. This can complicate searching the collection for a specific individual. If you are looking for a specific Jack K., you might find it difficult to identify that particular Jack. It also can complicate efforts to identify and connect testimonies with recordings of the same survivor at other institutions. By contrast, when reading or watching testimonies through LTS, users inevitably hear or read the name of the witness since interviews begin with the introduction of the witness: where and when she was born and what her or his name is. Once LTS will be openly accessible on the World Wide Web, this personal information will be also available to any user without restriction. Another example of what some might consider a rather restrictive policy, but one based on a desire to protect survivors: the Archive’s publication and licensing policies. When scholars want to cite or screen testimony excerpts, they are required to request authorization to publish in advance. This provides the archive with the opportunity to contact the survivor, if they are still living, about the imminent appearance of a citation in print. The goal is to ensure that a survivor will never open a book, enter a museum, or see a documentary film that cites or uses images from their testimony without being informed in advance. Since the archive holds copyright for the testimony, it is in its legal right to allow the use of these materials as it deems fit—survivors signed a release form to that regard at the time of taping. Nonetheless, at times there is a clear divergence between what is legal and what is ethical. And the founders felt the Archive had an ethical obligation to make a best effort to inform survivors of any public use of their testimony. Again, with opening LTS to the wider public, it will be difficult to continue this policy. However, accessibility has a number of meanings in the archival and library community. As an archive, the Fortunoff Archive aims to encourage use of its collection. It sees little value in a collection of testimonies sitting in cold storage at the Library Shelving Facility, or as bits and bytes languishing unused on a server farm in some undisclosed location. Testimonies were recorded to give a voice and platform to survivors when there was no such opportunity. They were recorded to be seen and heard, by grandchildren and great-grandchildren, for the purpose of teaching and research, and as a warning to the general public, which may have no direct connection to the atrocities that occurred in Europe between 1933



and 1945. Furthermore, a new generation of scholars, many of whom have grown up with ubiquitous data and powerful information technology, are emerging that wants to use and read testimonies in a new way. As part of this transition, Fortunoff begun a large-scale transcription project that will allow researchers to explore and analyze testimonies using these new methods. Advances in computer-based tools to simplify transcription of audiovisual materials are an important means to enhance accessibility to the content of the collection, despite some of the ethical objections noted earlier. But interest in transcription does not stem entirely from the needs of researchers, but also stems from a wider movement within universities to preemptively meet the needs of the hearing impaired to gain access to moving image materials. There are several high-profile Americans with Disabilities Act–compliance lawsuits challenging universities.14 How can the Fortunoff Archive, with its deep commitment to documentation and research of those who have been otherized, excluded, and targeted in the twentieth century, a group which included the mentally and physically disabled, not make every effort it can to make its collection available to all potential users, regardless of ability? An ongoing large-scale transcription effort ensures that Fortunoff Archive is working to preemptively meet these expectations. This effort may also lead to the expansion of the number of testimonies included in LTS.

Conclusion: Avoiding Digital Inhumanities For the HSFP, and later for the Fortunoff Archive, the concept of community implied a relationship of trust and solidarity between survivor and interviewer. The survivor put his trust in the interviewer and that the community of survivors behind HSFP would provide a “safe space” to share traumatic experiences of the past. The idea of offering a protective space to externalize trauma had a very important practical consequence: few questions were asked and interviewees could speak freely without being interrupted by the interviewers. No pressure was put on survivors to talk about certain themes. In this sense, a protective space meant that the interviewee had the absolute freedom to speak about certain things and remain silent on other things. The trust that defined the relationship between survivor, interviewer, and the community implied that silence of survivors on certain themes remained intact. LTS continues this tradition and it does not support the use of computer algorithms to detect silences—that is to locate



absent experiences that we would expect to encounter in a particular testimony. As opposed to computer-assisted silence detection, LTS respects the choice of a survivor to remain silent about an experience. How computer-­ assisted silence detection could work in practice can be presented through fragments. Computing tools can easily identify textual contexts where one is very likely to encounter certain terms but they are absent. For instance, accounts of being forced to undress, or experiences of nakedness, are often absent from the narration of survivors. We might know that a survivor entered a particular camp on a particular day, and that this camp had a policy of “processing” incoming inmates, but the survivor may not talk about it. They may not want to talk about it. Computing tools could generate examples of testimonies where this experience should be present, but is silenced. The anthology of testimonial fragments could feature areas of absence as well, that is, textual contexts in interviews where a given recurrent experience presented by a group of fragments remain tacit. However, do we have the right to use modern computing tools to pinpoint absences and holes in individual victims’ testimonies? The answer of LTS is resoundingly, “No.” To respect silences of individual survivors is again a form of solidarity with them. On the other hand, LTS does break silence by helping to establish a community of shared experiences—by collocating and reconnecting survivor’s stories in the same digital space. The trauma of “seeing one’s mother for the last time,” the experience of unwanted farewell, is often narrated “indifferently” by not sharing emotions. Those few survivors who, however, share the emotional burden of this experience speak up for other survivors; they break silence in the name of the entire community. Providing the opportunity to “speak up” is the realization of one of the core ideas that gave impetus to the HSFP: an organization recording the experiences of witnesses “by survivors for survivors.” The digital humanities as a discipline encourages us to employ new computation tools to enhance the traditional scholarship of humanists. But these tools can also easily entice us to perpetrate “digital inhumanities.” Unreflective application of computation can reveal previously undetected features or patterns in digital texts or audiovisual files—even information that was not meant to be shared. The example again being cases in which victims do not recount being forced to undress, although we might expect that as part of the experience. To prevent revealing the unspoken posthumously, LTS avoids the application of any tools to detect



silences. Solidarity with and protection of the individual survivor who put his or her trust in those taking testimony in the last quarter of the previous century, and recognition of abuses of technology in the pursuit of genocidal projects, demands that we place limitations on the use of computing tools in this century. On the other hand, turning our back on the application of digital tools to potentially unlock these important archival materials could impede better understanding of materials, such as testimonies, and other highly complex historical sources. Advanced search tools facilitate an unprecedented searchability and access to archival representation of the experience of genocide; however, these tools may also inhibit future generations from doing the difficult “working through” of individual testimonies. The pattern matching and advanced search capabilities carry with them the risk that they may be used as delivery mechanisms for “ready-made answers” rather than as maps to navigate a complete testimony. In other words, search tools may give the false impression that simple, “ready-made” answers can be discovered in these sources without requiring that the researcher listens to the complete testimonies. The ability to find results quickly, and without listening, or attending to the voice of survivors, threatens a deep and contemplative engagement with testimonies. Distance from the text or source is often required for many types of scholarship, but distancing from the emotional, human nature of these specific sources can be viewed as an injustice to the survivors who gave their personal testimonies. Are then the tools of digital humanities a way to avoid emotional harm—that is, to study the Holocaust without the Holocaust? The new forms of engagement facilitated by a digital interface have the potential to alter the very perception of oral history testimonies. For example, search tools may focus human attention on only what is verbalized in the testimony, removing the articulation from the traumatic experience itself. This points to the primary problematic implication of testimonial fragments. Given that the fragments also focus the attention of readers on what is explicitly said, they may give the impression that the emotional dimension of individual testimonies can be discovered by examining certain key passages. Again, to avoid this, in LTS complete testimonies are close at hand—either directly visible on the screen, or one click away. Moreover, researchers using LTS are encouraged to engage more deeply with the witnesses providing testimony through their voices, photographs, and video testimony.



The transformative power of digital interfaces and new media practices cannot be denied. In the words of Jeffrey Shandler, “each medium informs the work of remembering, and, in turn, the resulting mediations engender concerns for their own preservation and transmission” (Shandler 2017, 166). Accordingly, with digital interfaces we see two possibilities: first that it provides both a new method of doing traditional research and reading texts, and second, that it has the power to transform our engagement and understanding of witness testimony. Either way, these digital tools will change the way future generations interact with testimonies, as they do with all other types of historical documents. And through this interaction will come new understandings and perspectives. Editors and archivists will need to be cognizant of the potential transformative power of digital interfaces, and will be tasked with evaluating whether this transformation is acceptable, desirable, and worth the sacrifices, if they intend to build ethical, digital archives of the future. Building ethical, digital archives in the twenty-first century will remain a challenge, and an evolving one at that. How an institution’s policies inherited from the analogue age can or should be perpetuated in the digital world is an open question. In this chapter, we have presented how LTS, a digital anthology and tool, attempts to apply some of the ethical values of the Fortunoff Archive. The hope is that this transposition of “old” ethical values to a new digital environment will not only inform the modality of access to testimonies, but also shape use and foster new historiographical approaches to the study of the memory of the Holocaust. The overall goal of LTS is to facilitate a series of methodological shifts in scholarship. Firstly, LTS aims to support the study of collective experience. It allows researchers to “read” testimonies in a different way. The digital tools powering LTS also enable the exploration of large numbers of testimonies as an expression of collective experiences—and with a special emphasis on emotions. LTS also wants to support the exploration of the heterogeneity of the collective experience; it wants to dispel any illusions in the scholarly community that testimonies by survivors are repetitive and schematic. Finally, LTS wants to offer a palpable representation of victims’ perspective through testimonial fragments. The hope is that the focus of scholarship on memory and survivor experience can shift to the study of the experience of those who never returned. The title of this data edition, Let them Speak is symbolic: it wants to give voice to the dead, and further encourage the inclusion of their perspective in how the history of the Holocaust is written and interpreted. We hope that the research



community will find value in LTS as a demonstration of the possibilities of technology employed with the purpose of bringing together collections from disparate repositories and making them co-searchable at a fine level for the first time—a step in the direction of reuniting the community of survivors, digitally, in order to facilitate their use in teaching and research, as well as location by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will someday want to hear their family’s story.

Notes 1. See, for instance, Hartmann (2002, 134). 2. See, for instance, USC, SHOAH VA, 1400, USC SHOAH VA 7415, USHMM RG-50.544∗0001. 3. One example is the launch of the Archive’s Critical Edition Series, which takes a testimony, transcribes and translates it, and asks a scholar to provide commentary on the content of the testimony, describing terms, events, providing context, and suggestions for further reading on complex subjects. 4. For a more detailed history of the collection, see Rudof (2012). 5. For a comparison of interview methodologies employed by organizations dedicated to recording Holocaust testimony, see Shenker (2015). 6. Interviewers quickly discovered that too many questions interrupt the flow of memory, often causing the witness to become passive and simply wait for the next question rather than continue the type of free association that reveals much more of the individual’s life story. 7. Information about the early history of the HSFP can be gleaned from the papers documenting the organization’s establishment, growth, and deposit at Yale in 1982. See the archival finding aid here: https://archives.yale. edu/repositories/12/resources/3916 8. BlackLab has been developed by the Institute for the Dutch Language; it allows complex searches in linguistically annotated textual data. For further information see, 9. The three collections shared not only transcripts and some audio/video recordings, but also catalogue data, which have been post-processed and inserted into a database empowering Let them Speak. The harmonization of the complete meta-data was not possible; only a selected set of metadata is therefore available to search testimonies. 10. CQL was developed in the 1990s at the University of Stuttgart; since then it has been implemented to search important corpora such as the British National Corpus. It is available in corpus engines such as BlackLab, SketchEngine, and The IMS Open Corpus Workbench.



11. Of course, librarians and archivists have already “made peace” with this dilemma long ago, since testimonies and collections related to the Holocaust are regularly assigned call numbers and shelfmarks. Even the Fortunoff Archive provides each testimony with an HVT#, or Holocaust Video Testimony number. A necessary compromise, perhaps, to ensure intellectual control of the collection and enable research. 12. See Rosen (2010). 13. The computing part of this research is being discussed in Toth (2020). 14. See Flynn (2017).

Bibliography Flynn, Nicole. 2017. All Major U.S. Laws for Captioning Online Video. Cielo24, January 13. Accessed 13 Nov 2019. Hartmann, Geoffrey. 2002. Learning from Survivors. In The Longest Shadow: In the Aftermath of the Holocaust, ed. G. Hartman. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Kirk, Geoffrey S., and J.E. Raven. 1962. The Presocratic Philosophers; A Critical History with a Selection of Texts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Laub, Dori. 1992. Bearing Witness, or the Vicissitudes of Listening. In Testimony. Crisis of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, ed. S. Felman and D. Laub. New York/Oxon: Routledge. Levi, Primo. 1959. If This Is Man. Trans. Stuart Woolf. New York: Orion Press. Manning, Christopher D., and Hinrich Schütze. 1999. Foundations of Statistical Natural Language Processing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Pressner, Todd. 2016. The Ethics of the Algorithm: Close and Distant Listening to the Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive. In Probing the Ethics of Holocaust Culture, ed. Wulf Kansteiner, Claudio Fogu, and Todd Pressner. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Rosen, Alan. 2010. The Wonder of Their Voices: The 1946 Holocaust Interviews of David Boder. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Rudof, Joanne W. 2012. A Yale University and New Haven Community Project: From Local to Global. Online document. default/files/files/local_to_global.pdf. Accessed 13 Nov 2019. Shandler, Jeffrey. 2017. Holocaust Memory in the Digital Age: Survivors’ Stories and New Media Practices Stanford. California: Stanford University Press. Shenker, Noah. 2015. Reframing Holocaust Testimony. Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Toth, Mihaly Gabor. 2020. “Recovering and Rendering Silenced Experiences of Genocides: Testimonial Fragments of the Holocaust.” Digital Scholarship in the Humanities.

(Re)Producing the Past Online: Oral History and Social Media–Based Discourse on Cambodian Performing Arts in the Aftermath of Genocide Stephanie Khoury

The articulation of the past is always multiple and complicated but all the more so in the aftermath of traumatic events, as it then has a role to play in the processing of what happened and of the subsequent changes it engenders in society. Different communities implement different strategies to address the past in ways that are culturally relevant and socially and politically useful at both individual and collective levels in the maintenance or in the implementation of post-conflict stability, and to facilitate healing and recovery processes. Web-based sites provide individuals with a space through which they can use digital memorabilia to display their cultural identity and negotiate the articulation of their heritage and their sense of self. As viewers coalesce in virtual public spaces where digital archives circulate, they reproduce and redefine selected moments from the past and

S. Khoury (*) Music Department, Tufts University, Medford, MA, USA © The Author(s) 2020 E. M. Zucker, D. J. Simon (eds.), Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




their relation to it. While the past takes on different shapes for different people, historical collective achievement, colonization, or tragedy tends to capture a more global level of attention, and this part of a country’s or a group’s collective history then becomes subject to outsiders’ imaginaries in addition to insiders’ self-representations. To support these narratives, individuals and communities infuse material objects (photographs, elements of architecture, audiovisual recordings, written or taped testimonies) with the agency to represent a given period of time and to support their understanding of the past. Once transferred online as various digital objects, these items can be experienced through a broad range of frameworks and can reach wider audiences; they can be appropriated and repurposed. Considering this, it is important to ask what kinds of underlying tensions over representation permeate the multitude of efforts to digitally memorialize aspects of cultural identity in post-conflict and postcolonial settings. This question resonates with the recent history of Cambodia, a Southeast Asian kingdom that is home to the widely known archeological site of Angkor and that experienced colonization, civil war, and genocide all in the span of the twentieth century. The online use of digital media in the process of memorialization of the past conflicts in Cambodia highlights how collective memory shifts through various online platforms in ways that are a significant part of how a society rebuilds in the aftermath of political violence. While the Khmer Rouge regime was in power some 40 years ago, the current adult population either lived through it or grew up in its shadow and they are still processing these traumatic events. The extreme hardship of the Khmer Rouge regime (1975–1979) eventually brought Cambodian tragedy to the headlines and led to international support to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and to restore sites of cultural heritage. Foreign entities stepped in and, along with the Cambodian government and grassroots initiatives, participated in the memorialization process, generating a broad range of competing initiatives serving, at times, conflicting interests. Amidst these efforts, particular attention was drawn to the restoration and preservation of the performing arts, including the classical musical theater. This artistic genre, especially the female royal ballet, had previously caught the interest of the French colonial administration (1863–1953) and Western cultural anthropologists and ethnomusicologists, and it had been further promoted by Prince Norodom Sihanouk until 1970, generating photographic, audiovisual, and sound archives,



along with descriptions and promotional materials. Many documents were preserved outside of Cambodia at the time of the conflicts, therefore avoiding destruction under the Khmer Rouge regime, and later digitized. Since the early 1980s, the production of memorabilia associated with the practice of classical theater has resumed, and all of these materials, along with a heightened attention toward surviving masters and artists, are embedded within a contemporary restorative process wrapped around the sustainability and transmission of classical performing arts. Of course, there is an initial contradiction in archiving cultural artistic performances, which are dynamic in nature, as capturing the instantaneity of a moment renders it static, turning it into a model, a reference text on the basis of which tradition can be materialized, discussed, compared, and argued upon. Nevertheless, Auslander considers the digitization of performance as a form of creation in itself, with its own authenticity (2006), one that allows for the recreation of the performance, inducing its perpetuation (Bay-Cheng 2012, 36, in Esling 2013, 34). As today’s technology allows for the direct production of digital documents, old and new items coexist on the Internet where they are circulated and shared, contributing to the overall discourse and fantasy generated by these artistic works. Indeed, in the case of Cambodia as elsewhere, digital environments play a role in the dissemination of knowledge about performing arts as one does not need the direct encounter with a practitioner to visually gain familiarity with an art form. The compilation of archives with live performances of the archived art form affirms its continuity in a way. In the context of traditional arts, performances are related to collective cultural memory, and their digital documentation allows for a mediation of the past that sets up the performance as a new embodied materiality. Once an object, it becomes subject to public discourses and meta-narratives about its historicity that the social body may then solidify as knowledge (Cushman and Gosh 2012, 267–68). As Cushman and Gosh point out, “digital mediation and its grammars can […] distort, disembody, and decontextualize the very cultural memories that it strives to protect and represent” (ibid., 282). In other words, once tangibly materialized through documentation (photographs, recordings, etc.), performing arts detaches from the artist’s body and gains an autonomy that may be invested toward filling various purposes and needs. And the digitization of these documents further multiplies their accessibility. Focusing the question about representation above on the digital memorialization of Cambodian dance and theater, this chapter asks how people



rely on the online representation of classical performing arts to actively engage with the past of Cambodia and advocate for today’s representation of culture and self? The role of classical musical theater in this process should be understood as an embodiment of the implicit struggle between ownership and representation, and between neocolonial/colonial representations and politicized identity claims from Cambodians in the homeland as well as in the diaspora. In order to address these questions, I explore how the Internet reconfigures the way people articulate the past through the online collection, dissemination, and production of digital archives in relation to Cambodian classical musical theater and the multi-vocal narratives that define it in relation to the country’s past and recent history. I compare two differing types of initiatives that stand out for their role producing and/or circulating digital audiovisual materials on the Internet: formal archival collections and social media sites. Each articulates crafted versions of the past that reinforce or contribute to the formation of particular narratives about theater, dance, and music. As an entry point, the next section outlines the place of classical performing arts in Cambodia’s histories of colonialism, development, and conflict.

Of Forgetting and Remembrance Classical Performing Arts as Embodiment of Culture Classical musical theater appears in three forms in which a storyline is danced either by women (lkhon preah reachtroap), by men (lkhon khol), or through the shadows of hand-held leather panels (lkhon sbaek thom). All are performing to the music of a pinpeat orchestra, an instrumental ensemble that is also used on its own in support of national, royal, and religious ceremonies (both Buddhism and spirit worship). The depiction of female and male dancers at the royal court of the Khmer empire on the walls of Angkorian temples (ninth to thirteenth centuries) and the abundance of apsara celestial dancers flying from pedestals to lintels visually affirms and glorifies the sacredness of these arts. It is a small departure from the concept of relying on ritual theatricalized dances to support authority and power, to an imagined formal continuity of the choreographies and repertoires. Colonial administrators reinforced and instrumentalized this bond, exhibiting the female artists of the royal ballet of Cambodia from Paris to Marseille in 1906, while early twentieth-century postcards capture real life



dancers amidst the ruins of the temples, twisting time to make the past and the present meet while timelessly embedding an idea of power. He who rules the land owns the dance. The formation of the royal ballet, and later of the other forms of classical musical theater, as idioms of Cambodian culture, emerged through time from the conjunction of multiple differing interests: local and international, political, and economic. Through the twentieth century, Cambodian society has experienced abrupt transitions between radically different modes of governance. Each successive ruling leader, whether colonial, royal, imposed by force, or democratically elected, had a very specific vision for classical musical theater, and a clear idea as to how it should be performed (or not) and used to serve religious, social, economic, and/or political purposes.1 Until the 1950s, female ballets were representative of royalty and therefore confined to court, high-dignitary, and colonial environments; while male drama, shadow theater, and pinpeat music alone, were housed in specific monasteries located around centers of royal power. The institutionalization of classical performing arts in the 1960s rendered these arts more accessible both in terms of education and of their public representation.2 A few years later, Cambodia sank into civil war and the monarchy was abolished in 1970 with the installation of the US-backed military regime of General Lon Nol. Libretti were revisited so that the institutional classical musical theater could promote nationalist sentiments. This art was later forbidden with the establishment of the  Khmer Rouge state, Democratic Kampuchea, from 1975 to 1979. Under the leadership of Pol Pot, Cambodia experienced the loss of many of its people, their knowledge, and the shattering of their social and religious references. While positioning the regime in an idealized pre-colonial past, Khmer Rouge leaders actively worked toward the erasure of past social structures through the denial of any form of their expression. Even music had to be made anew. As Penny Edwards notes, “the past was banned in many ways. Nostalgia was renamed memory sickness [a] condition treatable by execution, as if history had become literally embodied in particular people, whose annihilation could eradicate the country’s polluted past” (2007, 2). Performing arts historically linked to royal or religious contexts, those that I refer to as classical, had to be silenced, as were religious chanting and the 1950s, and ’60s Cambodian pop and rock songs. Along with the disappearance of people was the loss of local documentation, audiovisual recordings, musical instruments, and performance materials (masks, elements of costume, libretti). During the nearly four years during which the Khmer Rouge were in power, it is estimated that



about a quarter of the population died, among which were a large part of the country’s professional dancers, singers, and musicians. Because classical performing arts are engraved in the kinetic memory of its dancers, memorized in the musicians’ minds, and transmitted through poets and narrators’ speech—the brutal disappearance of these knowledge bearers induced a fear of loss of Cambodian performing arts, and thus critically highlighting their contribution to Cambodian culture as it was expressed prior to Democratic Kampuchea. From the 1980s onwards, as various actors sought to reinstall certain core elements of cultural life from before the Khmer Rouge, significant efforts were made to gather surviving artists and to restore, preserve, and transmit performing arts at the local and national levels. Sponsored by international non-governmental organizations and foundations, the Cambodian government, and local communities, the ongoing work of reconstruction also raised awareness of the cultural capital that these arts represent. The Royal Ballet of Cambodia and the Large Shadow Theater have been listed as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since 2008 and internationally acclaimed.3 These arts constitute a major cultural asset that positively represents and promotes Cambodian national culture to the international community as well as to Cambodian people both domestically and in the diaspora. Linked more or less accurately to the Angkorian period, which is itself perceived as a time of glorious potency of Cambodian leadership, classical performing arts are items of national pride that support the nostalgia of the past and, for the displaced, of the homeland and they are a financial boon of cultural tourism and of NGOs-sponsored cultural programs.4 They embody cultural heritage, continuity, and power. Current expressions of these arts rely on the memorial processes that they generate, which are themselves framed in reaction to the 1970s conflicts and in praise of an idealized past, wrapped around the periods of independence (1950s and ’60s) and the Angkor temples. The expansion of classical arts representation, in Cambodia and abroad, contributed to an exponentially greater visibility, and allowed for the dissemination of various historical and contemporary data to figuratively construct a bridge over the Khmer Rouge period, thus asserting continuity between the past and the present while rendering classical music and dance as arts that belong to and represent the Cambodian people and culture in Cambodia, but also to Cambodians in the diaspora, and to a global audience.



Global and Vernacular Appropriation The plight of classical musical theater during the Khmer Rouge period and the fate of many of its artists and masters position this art form as an endangered, yet surviving (and therefore resilient) practice. This vision fits within governmental tactics to refrain from directly addressing the abuses and violence of the Democratic Kampuchea, and to distance current leaders from past ones while enjoining people to reconcile and carry on (Sion 2011). In 1998, the then and still prime minister, Hun Sen, advised people to “dig a hole and bury the past” (Chandler 2008, 356) while commodifying the memorialization of the violence. Nonetheless, numerous initiatives have arisen to bear witness to Cambodia’s tormented and still recent past, and to hold the leaders of the time accountable for the consequences of their actions at a legal level, through ongoing judicial proceedings; by honoring the  dead;  through soulappeasing rituals; by keeping alive the memory of what happened; and through archival documentation, testimonies, films, and arts.5 The use of new and traditional performing arts to address a recent traumatic period, such as in the case of a  civil war or genocide, is commonly observed in the aftermath of conflicts (see Rush and Simić 2014; Hutchison 2013). In the Cambodian context, performing arts emerged as a favored medium through which the tragedy of the Khmer Rouge the difficult healing of survivors, and the inherited trauma of post-genocide generations could be addressed while restoring a cultural component from the past. This ranges from the early 1980s effort to preserve musical theater, with the gathering of survivors and the promotion of knowledge transmission (Turnbull 2006), to 2017’s staging of Phka Sla Krom Angkar, which may be translated as “forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge regime,” an original creation that uses choreographic and musical repertoires of classical theater to address gender-based violence committed during the Khmer Rouge period.6 Cambodian classical performing arts have been at the forefront of discourses on cultural survival and resiliency in the aftermath of genocide. The classical female dancer is a powerful symbol through whose history the past can be discussed, revised, and interpreted. The decades of conflict have heightened this phenomenon. The use of music and dance archives to support contemporary performances and to reinforce ideas about the past contributes to today’s framework for the practice itself. Indeed, an early 1920s picture of apprentice dancers and musicians posing in the ruins of



Angkor temples, or the recording an ethnomusicologist made of a court orchestra in the 1960s, see their value as archive asserted and exacerbated by the time period to which they belong or aim to invoke. Here, pictures, sounds, and videos from a time that preceded the Khmer Rouge period are like many pieces of memory that call the past into the present. Beyond their intrinsic value as historical documents, they serve as reminders of a time that memory—for some—has polished and glorified and which are  echoed in  contemporary performances and their audiovisual recordings. Reproducible through their digitization, these documents are increasingly available online. Since the turn of the twenty-first century, the work of memory production has been greatly democratized, and one can see the rise of online displays of audiovisual archives related to Cambodian performing arts organized in collections or randomly compiled. While Internet access has spread slowly outside urban centers in Cambodia, it is nonetheless a growing tool that brings the homeland, the diaspora, and the broader public sphere into impactful dialogue. Organizations as well as individuals, in Cambodia and abroad, have thus the ability to contribute to the effort of remembrance and to the preservation of performing arts through websites hosting new data collections, audiovisual archives, and through online social media sites. The use of digital tools and the transfer of the dialogue about art to online spheres set a stage where everyone can participate, thus globalizing the interpretative process of defining the role of musical theater and dance in Cambodian society and history. The novelty of having this phenomenon transposed online is not as much in the argument displayed as it is in the tools used to articulate it, in the scale on which it operates, and in the expression of power relations between the arts and its agents that it induces.

Online Archival Collections: Reconnecting the Past with the Present Digital Memory and the Rhetorical Argument of Online Audiovisual Narratives From the most formal to the most dispersed, there are many ways to remember and articulate the past on the Internet. In post-conflict and post-traumatic situations, such as wars, genocide, or terrorist attacks, intentionality is key to understanding processes of digital remembrance.



For instance, the concept of web-memorials stands out amidst the profusion of web-based initiatives as “digital (…) outlets for mourning and commemoration” (Hess 2007, 812) of those who have died during or in consequence of specific, geo-localized, and dated historical events. As they rely on selected archives, personal experiences of survivors, and individual tributes, web initiatives such as online memorials “are critical to the vernacular comprehension of the events because ‘they provide a means for shaping a common interpretation and evaluation’ (Hauser 1999, 160)” (Hess 2007, 828).7 A notable example dealing with the commemoration of the Cambodian genocide can be found in the website of Searching for the Truth,8 a magazine edited and published by the Documentation Center of Cambodia, known as DC-Cam. This independent research institute aims to gather documentation on the genocide and make it available to the public and to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), in which Khmer Rouge leaders are on trial. It also works toward justice and peace through the education of the population about the events that occurred during the period of Democratic Kampuchea, and more recently, that are related to this period.9 While there is a physical space dedicated to the archival collection and work of the center, the online website of the magazine displays information about the genocide, updates on the ECCC, and links to the DC-Cam YouTube channel.10 The latter operates as a platform for vernacular collective memory of the genocide via more than 100 interviews of survivors, historical documentaries about the Khmer rouge period, and clips related to the Center’s local peace and reconciliation outreach. Numerous initiatives are available online and build on a similar model of digital archival collections, following a Western-inspired model of vernacular history in which series of selected testimonies provide key and/or volunteer individuals with an opportunity to share their experience.11 These initiatives are essentially linked to public and private institutions, such as libraries, documentation centers, and universities. Such web collections aim to address the recent past through survivors’ testimonies of their life before, during, and since the genocide and, drawing from Hess (2007)’s conclusions, such vernacular discourses configure common understanding of tragic events or time periods. Classical musical theater and its music alone were among the targets of the Khmer Rouge’s ideology as they were idioms of past power and authority. Testimonies about the treatment of these court-related and religious dance and music forms during the Khmer Rouge regime bring



nuance and understanding about both what it embodied for most Khmer Rouge leaders, namely an object of the past that had to stop, and what it represented for most people, a necessity (see particularly Shapiro 2002; Jerome Robbins Dance Division 2008). The Cambodian-led and US-housed original audiovisual collection on dance and musical theater, the Khmer Dance Project, stands out as an effective realization of an online historical archive of these classical performing arts. The Khmer Dance Project Launched in 2013 and hosted on the New  York City Public Library’s (NYPL) website as a permanent online collection of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, the Khmer Dance Project (KDP) aims to share the individual stories “of artists—including dancers, musicians, and singers, as well as embroiderers and dressers—who kept dance alive during and in the wake of the Khmer Rouge regime”12 and video clips of current training sessions, costume making, performances, and performance-related ceremonies. The project is situated somewhere between web-memorials, with its use of testimonies, and academic documentation, with its informative content. It is the result of international institutional collaboration between the NYPL and the Center for Khmer Studies; it is directed by Suppya Nut, a Western-trained Cambodian scholar, with technical support from Jan Schmidt, who was then curator at the NYPL, and from Cambodian staff members from the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center onsite for the recording of the interviews and their digitization. The American Anne Hendricks Bass Foundation financially supported the project. Today, this collection displays 60 subtitled video clips, totaling more than 42 hours, organized on a webpage; it is accessible from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. The collection draws a portrait of the Cambodian classical musical theater from the 1950s until the early twenty-first century, introducing the state of classical performing arts in a diachronic perspective. The main content is constructed around 22 elder masters as they provide accounts of what daily life was like for artists in the royal palace and at the Royal University of Fine Arts before the conflicts, as well as stories of their survival through the civil war and the following genocide, and their contribution to the restoration of practices.13 Short interviews from seven dancers and a musician of the post-genocide generation provide another perspective on what it means to perform classical dance and pinpeat music in contemporary social and economic Cambodia. Space is



also made for important figures of Cambodian arts to provide their personal insights, such as the late HRH Princess Bopha Devi on her life and ballet creations, the late Pich Tum Kravel on his career as an artist, a scholar, and an administrator for the arts, as well as the political figure Son Soubert, who delivers his testimony of the arts with and at the court.14 Suppya Nut conducted the interviews between 2008 and 2010. Major figures of this collection have passed away since then and this archive provides viewers with a unique opportunity to hear and see these individuals giving their take on the arts after their death. The different interviews of the KDP form a network of individual stories and experiences that piece together a narrative of the past of classical musical theater and dance, but one that is told through today’s eyes. As it aims to keep the past remembered, bearing witness to the different phases through which the performance and its practitioners have bloomed or struggled, this online database qualifies as a “site of memory” in Pierre Nora’s terms (see Nora 1984). Considered from a philosophical perspective, a site like the Khmer Dance Project gathers remains from the past that are selected and purposefully maintained in the present (ibid., XXIV) in order to construct an oral history of the musical theater.15 Furthermore, emotions are invested in the neo-spatiality represented by the KDP online collection, which emerged as an empathetic reaction to the genocide during which many artists perished. Reconstructing the past life of the artists, and their journey, is also a way to make sense of what it is today in the light of what it represented before. Here, vernacular narratives shape the past and relate to it in a way that asserts continuity and resilience. Positionality and Digital Memories As a site of memory, the Khmer Dance Project (KDP) is an exhibit of a vernacular history of classical dance, and it targets anyone interested in the arts of Cambodia, survivors’ narratives, or historical accounts of a royal court. The project also aims to fill intergenerational gaps, as new generations often face the silence of elders about what happened during the Khmer Rouge period. Here, as in general, oral testimonies are selective renditions of the past in which some aspects are emphasized while others are forgotten in relation to their importance for the topic discussed, in relation to the personal background and social environment of the narrator, and in response to the questions of the interviewer. The collection is constructed around a clear objective, which led to the selection of relevant



people whose answers produce informative content. That content is situated, and its appreciation is guided as with an exhibit. Therefore, the KDP’s website displays little space to engage with the narratives, though a feedback option allows for non-public messaging, and a comment form is available on the homepage of the collection. Such a platform is intended for a selected kind of viewership whose approach is driven by the desire to look for specific research-quality content, and to do it as an audience member who receives specific information without agency over it, or the option to directly contest or transform the past that is presented. The KDP is not the only online database that gathers digital archives of Cambodia’s musical and danced past, as online collections of sound archives of Cambodia’s arts are available on American and European institutions’ websites as well.16 These result from the country’s colonial past, from academic research, and from the publications of world music recordings. Such archives are not guided narratives about the past, but documents about which individuals have to develop their own understanding. The older a recording, the more likely meta-data will not contain the names of any performer or detailed information about the content. Here, once again, the agency lies in intentionality. In these databases, raw materials have scientific purposes, while edited series further aim to provide a broad audience with basic knowledge and understanding of a practice, a population, or a community. Their digitization is completed in order to rescue them from the obsolescence of their original format (wax cylinders, LPs, magnetic tapes) and their online access makes sound archives available to the communities where they were recorded. While media are accessible for online streaming, and links can be shared, their content is contemporaneous with the moment they represent and is embedded into broader archives linked to the institution rather than to a specific culture or historical period. Sound archives are used in the process of defining and shaping the cultural profiles of a specific population or place at a given time period. Nonetheless, they are constructions that reflect what the collectors decided would be worth recording, what and who they could access, or even how much tape they had available at the time. Importantly, differing approaches to the same media may lead to different understandings and evoke different emotional responses. Let us consider the French National Institute for Audiovisual Media (INA)’s moving image archives related to Cambodia. Experiences differ depending on whether these archives are being viewed in the French location or on the Institute’s website, amidst all archives of French public television, or in



Cambodia, at the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center, where all items represent part of Cambodia’s past and are framed in relation to the overall history of the country. Furthermore, the impression an archive makes is necessarily affected by the intentionality and the subjectivity of both the filmmaker and interviewer toward the subject documented as well as the interviewees toward the events they are describing, the context of the interview, the people present, and the status of the interviewer, and so on. In the case of French archives, cinematographic choices of images and commentaries display discourses that are influenced by the relation of power between the two countries and by the targeted audience, whether it is a matter of embedding dancers and musicians in front of an ancient temple for a promotional clip during colonial times, or footage of Khmer Rouge military operations around 1975. As these examples illustrate, the production of archival collections involves the setting of filters that are determined by the author’s intentionality, which is itself influenced by the targeted viewership or aim of the archive. Contemporary and current viewers then interpret that document through their own subjective lenses, including their individual positionality to the subject and personal opinions. Once uploaded onto the Internet, archival documents’ authorship and/or ownership are reassessed, when not lost, while the content may be re-appropriated and affixed to new meanings. Political, promotional, or market-oriented misuses may also take place. In the following section, I explore some examples of how this process has taken place with digitized representations of Cambodian performing arts.

Sociocultural Identity and Virtual Public Spaces on Social Media Sites On the Malleability of Heritage and User-Generated Cultural Content While online institutional archives regulate what can be circulated through relatively protected technological and legal frameworks, social media sites are spaces where digital memorabilia are easily gathered and where information and data flow fluidly and instantly. This second type of web-based initiative also relies on memorial processes to assign a given substance to the displayed media. Moving images and photograph archives made in Cambodia during the first half of the twentieth century are progressively



entering the public domain and/or being reproduced with variable compliance to often-obscure copyright regulations.17 One may easily find them online via standard search engines, thus making them available for audiences far beyond their host institutions or collectors. Today, the reproduction and sharing of audiovisual items is a common, anodyne operation that ranges from snapping a picture or capturing a video on a cellphone and posting it on a web-based platform to the sharing of an image or a video clip found while roaming on institutional online databases, on thematic websites, or on social media sites. Yet, archival metadata about the shared media doesn’t automatically follow the item as it bounces from one platform to another. In most cases, the available meta-data remains limited to the latest stops of the item’s virtual journey more than to its actual content. Let us consider for a moment one of the itineraries of a postcard by a French publisher, Francis Decoly Postcard Editing, depicting female dancers in costumes standing on a pathway of a temple from the Angkor site.18 There is no date, but one can estimate it was taken in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Caption in French translates as “Visit of HRH Sisowath at Angkor – the King’s ballerinas dance to honor guests,” which is somewhat inaccurate considering that the dancers are posing without displaying any dance gesture. It is a colonial staging of Cambodian culture, reinforcing the association of royal dancers and musicians with the Angkorian temples, two elements that represent the most prestigious idioms of cultural heritage. Part of the public domain, this postcard can be used as one wishes. It appears on the Wikipedia page for Royal Ballet of Cambodia, on the database Wikimedia Commons at entry: “Dancers angkor wat,” and on numerous Pinterest boards; it circulates on Twitter, notably with the hashtag #ItIsCambodiaCulture; it illustrates online journal articles, and so on.19 The association of current classical dance with the ancient temples serves to assert the cultural claims that classical musical theater is undoubtedly and uniquely Cambodian, regardless of the related forms performed in neighboring Thailand and Laos and the centuries of intense cultural exchange, notably regarding court and religious arts such as this one. On social media sites, data and informal discourse on the value of Cambodian culture and the duty of its preservation circulate. Pictures, video clips, and statements are often shared with little to no attention to credentials or accuracy, and individuals may re-appropriate them as their own to convey their immediate reaction to them. This relates to what LeMahieu (2011, 86–87) calls “the new hermeneutics of communication, [as images of] movement, gesture, physical appearance, and other forms



of non-verbal communication create statements uniting message and messenger.” The interpretative process thus expressed is indicative of the “agentification” attributed to the media. In other words, the agency of audiovisual media is determined by the intentionality of its owner at the time of ownership, no matter how many other people also “own” the same document or how different their interpretations may be. While relying on materials that already exist, that were implemented by others, and that are immediately available, when one shares a picture or a musical recording on one’s profile or board, they get to write the captions. Through this process, new texts and meanings are produced and performed by users. Archival audiovisual media are objects to support interpretation and vernacular commentaries about the past they illustrate. In the case of Cambodia, images of royal dancers and pinpeat musicians in the landscape of Angkor temples or the palace of Phnom Penh were part of the representation of Cambodian culture throughout the twentieth century and the temples’ bas-reliefs are still today regarded as a demonstration of the ancient roots of these arts and of their royal affiliation. Contemporary re-enactments of these situated photographs constitute a major theme in the tourist industry (still today as postcards) and also appear in local visual arts (paintings, street art). Once online, archival items coalesce on individuals’ virtual shelves, ranging from organized themed collections to incongruous cabinets of curiosities, and displayed for everyone to pick, share, tag, and save, thus creating their own collection, from which others may then sample. Online social media sites provide an open space for all expressions and the expression of all. As little control is exerted over the content of the material displayed or the material with which it is associated, and considering how affordable, accessible, and overall omnipresent social media sites are, every non-professional enthusiast can be an archivist or, what Abigail De Kosnik (2016) calls a “rogue” memory worker. As she notes, these “rogue archivists explore the potential of digital technologies to democratize cultural memory. […] They construct repositories that are accessible by all Internet users” (ibid., 2). Image-hosting sites such as Flickr or Instagram make available user-generated cultural and heritage content and empower individuals by enabling them to create reliable-looking resources (see Terras 2011). Pictures, videos, recordings from before, during, and after the genocide circulate through image and moving image-hosting sites (Flickr, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.) as well as social network sites (Facebook, Twitter,



Instagram, MySpace, etc.) and are shared from one profile to another, reaching exponential numbers of viewers. While these archives have little to no contextual information, often generate few comments, and garner barely more “likes,” they appear as statements of their own. Indeed, individuals can shape and perform their personal cultural heritage through the audiovisual materials they choose to display on their profile. The sharing of these materials, the “liking” of others, or their association with positive or negative captions or symbols (ideograms of facial expressions, objects, or GIFs), allows individuals to construct “taste statements” through which they articulate their identity-based interests (Liu 2007, in Cover 2014) and transmit a situated narrative about the past of court-related performing arts. Relying on Martin Stokes (1994, 5) remarks on music, documents about musical theater and dance are “socially meaningful not entirely but largely because [they] provide a means by which people recognize identities and places/and the boundaries that separate them.” The ability to create, adjust, and update the online representation of one’s self allows people to perform digital cultural identity. One’s own, but also others as one sees them. In using digital memorabilia to do so, individuals are “distancing and decontextualizing the [media] from that which it signifies,” thus creating their own “digital mediation of cultural memories,” a process through which meaning is created with both distance and subjectivity (Cushman and Gosh 2012, 267) while entering the public sphere. Social Platforms as Public Spaces for Online Activism Another illustration of Stokes’ remarks may be found in the intentional use of cultural identity statements to actively construct new narratives, thus creating original content that relies on preexisting associations. This may take a political dimension when the cultural heritage is at stake. A current example of this can be found in the realm of intangible cultural heritage with the simultaneous submission in 2017 of two applications, one by the Thai government and one by the Cambodian government, to see their respective rendition of all-male classical musical theater enlisted as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at the annual UNESCO meeting in December 2018, the latter form being submitted within the category of heritage in need of urgent safeguarding.20 This generated a lot of emotional reactions on both sides of the Thai-Cambodian border and opened a debate that uses online tools to display opinions, claims, and arguments. Let us consider the example of the Facebook page of the



Lakhaon Khaol Youth of Cambodia, a page dedicated solely to the all-male theater, also referred to as masked theater.21 Created in July 2016 and regularly updated by Cambodian artists, the page displays the contemporary work of professionally trained performers of lkhon khol, which informally include the chronological display of shows but also rehearsals, tours, making of masks and costumes, religious ceremonies held around the performances, and so on.22 Written in Cambodian language, the page aims to “(gather the) youth of Cambodia to collaborate, work, communicate, learn, and share about the ancient form of Lakhaon Khaol mask dance,” according to the page description. On Facebook, this group has been followed by over 32,000 people in three years. Since 2017, the eponymous YouTube channel archives relevant video footage related to the dance practice, collecting tens of thousands of views in two years. The Lakhaon Khaol Youth of Cambodia’s initiative is conceptually close to the Khmer Dance Project and relies on tools and technology that are available, accessible, and very popular in Cambodia to set up an informative and promotional database on the current practice of this musical theater. The different posts recall the past through the documentation of this traditional art form, along with more contemporary creations. In connecting historical references and archival images to the contemporary practice of this theater, some materials posted on this group embody discursive cultural mediations of the past. Notably, in January 2017, the troupe associated with the Lakhaon Khaol Youth of Cambodia produced an advertisement for a show held later in the month. The first part of this short video opens on footage of an ancient temple; then locally renowned masters of the masked theater assertively argue in favor of the rise of a national pride around cultural assets of the country, among which stands the lkhon khol. The masters associate Cambodia’s social worth to its people’s ability to value their own cultural heritage: “We Khmer have a very rich culture. Khol belongs to the Khmers. Our people preserve it in our hearts. If we don’t love our culture, who is going to value us?”23 A second part of the clip shows a series of khol performers in costume dancing, accompanied by a song highlighting the collective heritage represented by the theater, “The Lkhon Khol of Cambodia, with all our knowledge, we march as one. We preserve among our people the culture of the Cambodian Khol dance.” Within the contours of their bodies successively appear the ruins of Angkor temples, the skyline of Phnom Penh, and the dance pavilion of the current royal palace holding the portrait of the late king Norodom Sihanouk. The conclusion of the clip provides viewers with information regarding the date,



time, and location of the show, while reaffirming the strong connection between this theater and Cambodian cultural heritage. Created in the context of the UNESCO application for the lkhon khol, this clip is particularly vehement about the cultural mediation it narrates. It was broadly shared on Facebook and other media, including YouTube channels, along with successive networks of friends and acquaintances. It ended up being reused as a strong argument to defend Cambodian culture against Thailand in reference to the UNESCO applications, reaching people who may have had no previous interest in the lkhon khol or any performing arts at all. Before the UNESCO committee met late in November 2018 to discuss the inscription of these theater genres on its lists of intangible heritage, online activism emerged. Relying on selective readings of the historical past of Cambodia and using visual montages (see Fig. 1), an active online campaign appeared largely fed by individuals. In mid-August 2018, the UNESCO Facebook page resembled a battlefield of partisans of one or the other theatrical genre and the comment section of most posts became saturated with discourses relying on the past to support present claims. These comments were either a personal argument addressed directly to the UNESCO committee or the systematic copy-pasting of memes and slogans added from different profiles, such as “#UNESCO This is my Khmer culture is belong to Cambodia long time ago [flag icon of Cambodia]. [red X icon] It not Thailand [flag icon of Thailand] [red X icon] We have proofs on the walls of Angkor,” which appears hundreds of times in the comment sections of completely unrelated posts.24 Supporters of the Thai application proceed alike to assert Thai “ownership” on the khon theater. Similar online behavior can be found in the comments section of YouTube videos dealing with one theatrical form or the other, as well as on Thai and Cambodian opinion sites and blogs.25 Here, the use of social media differs from the display of statements on individual tastes and interests, and they become platforms for protest activities. Clark (2016) notes that as individuals receive, view, and exchange politically charged media online, as they quote and comment on them, “they exhibit their emotional investment of these materials” (Poell and Van Dijck 2016, 227, about Clark 2016), which function as “artifacts of engagement” as they bring together recognizable elements in an unequivocal set up. In this case, such artifacts are generated by the visual association of lkhon khol performance with the ruins of Angkor and the current flag of Cambodia (see Fig.  1). Audiovisual materials are constructed around the same triad and commonly include the soundscape of the



Fig. 1  Top image retrieved from Twitter, #ItIsCambodiaCulture, on September 19, 2018. Note Decoly’s black-and-white postcard at the bottom, second from the left. Bottom image retrieved from Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen’s official Facebook page, where it was posted on June 5, 2016. Both texts state that the lkhon khol is Khmer. (Arranged by S. Khoury)



theater, the performance itself, and sometimes also of the opening ceremony (sampeah kru/humrong) during which ancestors and protective supernatural entities are invoked, thus  directly calling upon Cambodian religion. As Poell and Van Dijck point out, “temporary and fundamentally transient public spaces are constructed through [such] mass sharing of emotions” (2016, 228). In configurations such as the UNESCO Facebook page, these spaces are directly connected with the institutional and/or official entities that are called out by individuals. In reaction, communication strategies are implemented to catalyze debates and capitalize upon public opinion. An example of this can be seen on the official Facebook page of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. On June 5, 2016, about nine months prior to the submission of an application for the lkhon khol to UNESCO, the prime minister’s page issued a short statement assuring its followers of the government’s awareness that Thailand was requesting the inscription of the khon theater as world heritage and that it supports the Cambodian legacy of the masked theater. This statement was released with attached visuals that include photomontages of archival and recent images (see Fig. 1).26 Within the multitude of montages that emerged, we find again the postcard of dancers at Angkor Wat temple, here repurposed to attest the Cambodian nature of the male theater, associated with the Cambodian flag and the statement of cultural ownership. Through the circulation of such montages and the massive spamming of the comment sections of selected social media sites, such as the UNESCO Facebook page, the emotional investment of individuals is exhibited, asserted, and self-reinforced. Discourses about the past turn into slogans and are used as tools to legitimize their own content through massive petition. Such spaces of interaction highlight the transfer of power structures to virtual spheres where individuals still relate to higher forms of authority, as they are also present on social media sites. This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the transition to online dialogue empowers participants in public debates by connecting them with a virtual cohort and providing everyone with a multitude of spaces and formats to voice their claims. On the other hand, it may constrain some individuals when allegiances that are socially enforced in real life also need to be reiterated online and where they may be even more visible to individuals’ personal networks. This is particularly salient in repressive states and their myriad apparatuses. The technological architecture of social platforms, in ordering what is seen first, structures participation and impacts visibility of posts and comments on social media (Poell and Van Dijck 2016, 230). Coupled with the



selection operated by search engines, it inscribes a number of paths toward which the Internet user is guided.27 Furthermore, as Poell and Van Dijck (2016, 228) note, if intense mobilization occurs online, these “flashes of collectivity do not provide the basis for the construction of stable social movements, […] they keep people emotionally invested” for the time of the event around which they gathered. In this case, the attention and emotion that cause people to coalesce into ephemeral virtual communities faded away after UNESCO’s recognition and enlisting of both theatrical practices, and they are likely to re-emerge on the next occasion people feel that their cultural identity and heritage has been challenged. Meanwhile, it reaffirmed and heavily publicized the claimed historicity of Cambodian classical theater, now including its all-male expression in heritage discourses and cultural policies.

Concluding Remarks On the web, discursive and non-discursive approaches to materials from or about the past lead to the formation of various narratives that serve different goals. The transposition online of these narratives can be considered forms of cultural activism, whether through institutional curated collections or through social media visibility. Furthermore, because of this opportunity for representation (of oneself and/or of the other), online platforms are spaces where all these expressions represent themselves as displays of knowledge about the past and aim to have an impact in the present. Memorabilia generates emotions and potentially stirs them up as the cultural pride they represent is challenged. In the case of Cambodian archives, this phenomenon is heightened in reaction to the genocide, making the revitalization of classical performing arts and the circulation of memorabilia and testimonies into acts of resilience and empowerment, but also nationalism. They put together a version of the past of these arts and of life around them that contributes to collective healing and that is integral to the process of recovering cultural self-determination. The digitization of archives and their online availability is a widespread response to current technological developments. It allows the implementation of practices and archival manipulations that are also symptomatic of current time. The shift online is therefore key in broadly sharing, displaying, and pairing elements about the past with present situations, facilitating subjective interpretations and enabling Internet users to impact local and global considerations of Cambodian classical theater. Online archival



collections and social media sites illustrate opposite ends of the spectrum of web-based platforms. One has professionally crafted and selected content that is organized and labeled to provide a passive viewership with a long-term guided and clear understanding of a defined object. The other has user-generated, versatile, and unsupervised content that becomes frenetically interactive while under ephemeral spotlights. Both types of initiatives and all others that lie between them participate in a global phenomenon of using online tools for the memorialization of the past of a community, a practice, or an event. In the initiatives mentioned in this paper, contemporary needs shape the ideas conveyed by the archives used for memorialization. The current performance of these arts strengthens and justifies the archival argument. In other words, as performance “carries on,” the adaptation of Cambodian musical theater to its contemporary social, economic, and political environment induces new readings of archival documents and leads to the implementation of new frameworks (testimonies of survivors to interpret the historical relation of people to classical musical theater in the light of the war and lingering trauma) and to the repurpose of preexisting documents (postcards, video clips, and other memorabilia edited before the 1970s) to generate adequate narratives. This is a cumulative process that builds on preexisting interpretations and views of the archives and expands the social and cultural imaginaries to add new meanings in order to fit new purposes and needs. In doing so, this process creates a cohesive system of adaptive memorialization in which the performance, the narrative, and the archive are mutually generating forces, each validating the others while being justified by them. While relying on subjective interpretations of the past to justify cultural claims is rather common, I believe there are tensions and challenges that are particular to post-war communities in that this practice is intertwined with narratives of survival and has an emotional component that goes beyond the frame of nationalism. As digital cultural capital is produced, displayed, and circulated through transnational networks of web-­ connected individuals, social commentaries and political statements of all kinds find a space in which they can be voiced, either through the media displayed or through its interpretation. This also raises broader questions of how we choose to remember in the digital age, how the collective is redefined by the reliance on web technologies, and what the deeper roots of implications are for discourses of authenticity and cultural ownership.



Notes 1. The French protectorate ran from 1863 until 1953 and used Cambodian musical theater and dance as a skillfully staged faire-valoir of their colonial assets. A striking example may be seen in the Cambodian participation to the International Colonial Exhibit held in Paris in 1931, an event during which the royal ballet was presented, along with the near real-size reproduction temple of Angkor Wat housed in a park in the outskirts of the city. 2. If the process of public secularization of the Royal Ballet had started prior to the official opening of the Royal University of Fine Arts, in 1965, it is with its institutionalization that it became increasingly accessible to the population. In this university, the royal dance and musical theater forms where taught along with traditional popular music and dance practices. Court and countryside arts were thus housed under a same roof 3. While recognized by UNESCO as early as 2003, when the concept of cultural heritage of humanity was implemented, it is only in 2008 that both were formally inscribed onto the list. 4. While there is no question that dance, theater, and music have been tightly linked to expression of authority as well as the strengthening and legitimization of people in power as early as the Angkorian times, these expressions have changed through time and have been used to support various political agendas while still remaining a symbol of royalty. The modes of performances (including libretti and musical instruments) one may see today translate changes that occurred after the fall of Angkor (see Khoury 2014; Shapiro 1994). 5. See notably, the work of survivor and movie director Rithy Panh, who also created the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center, a repository for audiovisual and sound archives that display an emphasis on the war period and the Khmer Rouge regime. 6. Phka sla is a type of flower that the groom offers to his bride in Cambodian traditional wedding and Angkar, “organization,” was a way of referring to the Khmer Rouge regime. This work has been choreographed by Sophiline Cheam-Shapiro, director of the Sophiline Art Ensemble, and has been part of a larger visual art project produced by the Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center and that aims to address the policy of forced marriage and rape that was enforced at the time of the Democratic Kampuchea. A recording of the full performance can be viewed on the Bophana Center’s YouTube channel (, last accessed on 08/23/2019). 7. See Hess (2007), on the 9/11 attacks in the US; Muzaini and Yeoh (2015), on the British and Commonwealth Far East prisoners of war (World War II).



8. Svaengrok karpit (/svaɛɲ rɔɔ(ɂ) kaa pɨt/), in Khmer, accessible at: http:// (last accessed on September 07, 2018). 9. DC-Cam was created in 1995, as a field office of the Cambodian Genocide Program of Yale University, before running independently (Greene 2015, 580). The website was created later and the YouTube channel was launched in 2010, having reached over 850,000 visits between then and July 2019. Documentation and testimonies gathered by DC-Cam serve research and studies on the Khmer Rouge period as well as on survivorship (see Greene 2015). A website has been implemented by DC-Cam specifically to support education about the genocide (http://www.khmerrougehistory. org/, in Khmer). 10. (last accessed on July 16, 2019). 11. Let us mention the student implementation of the platform “Living Memory of the Khmer,” which is hosted on the Northern Illinois University’s server, as part of the Southeast Asia Digital Library, and which aims to display accounts of individuals’ journeys from the late 1940s to the 1990s. ( SEAImages%3ALKVideos, accessed on September 07, 2018). 12. (last accessed October 2, 2018). 13. It breaks down as 12 female and 3 male dancers, 4 singers, 1 musician, 1 costume specialist, and 1 blacksmith. Numerous people have more than one interview displayed in the collection. 14. His testimony was also recorded within the Northern Illinois University-­ hosted “Living Memory of the Khmer” Project mentioned earlier. 15. See Khoury (2016) for a detailed application of this concept to the performance space of musical theaters. 16. The French National Agency for Scientific Research (CNRS) has gathered a collection of Cambodian audio archives of musical performances as well as narrations and ritual speeches collected by colonial administrators and researchers in Cambodia from the early twentieth century until today, along with recordings made in Paris during the 1931 colonial exhibit (see Khoury and Simonnot 2014). advance/ (last accessed on September 3, 2018). Audio archives from the French National Library (BNF) are also available through the Europeana Sound Project ( In the US, the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings also published recordings of Cambodian music and made them available for purchase through their online library (https:// 17. For a large part, these archival documents were produced by representatives of or on behalf of foreign countries where these documents were kept



and, for some, digitized later on. Realized with the necessary financial support and technological means, these documents were kept in home institutions and therefore sheltered from disappearing as a collateral damage of the war. 18. See image at: 19. Cropped to hide the caption from the postcard, it illustrates a note on the representation of dance and drama on temples ( dance-and-drama-cambodian-temples). 20. Applications and presentations can be viewed at: en/USL/lkhon-khol-wat-svay-andet-01374 for Cambodia and https:// for Thailand (last accessed on July 17, 2019). It should be noted that the Cambodian application is focused on the rural practice of a specific troupe affiliated with a village monastery, the Wat Svay Andet, while the Thai application concerns the institutional practice of masked theater. Yet, as an institutional practice of the male theater also exists in Cambodia, the two applications are often inaccurately presented as being about the same practice. 21. and https://youtu. be/9zkDR6HiJ0Y (last accessed on July 17, 2019) 22. Note that numerous spellings are used to refer to this theater, among which lkhon khol and lakhon khol. 23. See clip at: (last consulted on September 16, 2018). 24. It is worth noting that Facebook has implemented a setting to display “most relevant” comments on posts’ threads making these compulsory series of messages not visible unless the viewer manually changes the settings. Furthermore, the page administrators have the discretion to erase such comments, just as they have the possibility to ban access to specific commentators. Within the span of a few days in September 2018, I have observed the clearing of such comments on unrelated posts, and their saturation once again, by members of either Thai or Cambodian communities. 25. See notably, discussions on the Thai online chat room platform (and particularly or, last consulted on September 19, 2018), or on the clip dedicated to the lakhaon khaol and titled “the difference between Khmer and Thai” on the YouTube Channel of the Cambodian platform “Here and There,” which edits short clips on current social and cultural trends (, last consulted on September 19, 2018).



26., last accessed on September 19, 2018. 27. While the abundance of documentation available is overwhelming, algorithms of search engines such as Google bring to the forefront the most visited sites, leading to a selection by the frequency of access rather than accuracy.

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From the Material to the Digital: Reflections on Collecting and Exhibiting Grief at the 9/11 Memorial Museum Alexandra Drakakis

Soon after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Office of Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York promised victims’ families that it would do everything possible to identify their loved ones. Despite their best intentions and relevant advancements in the field of science however, 40% of World Trade Center victims have not been tied to any remains, leaving many family members without a trace of their loved ones, as matters presently stand (Bote 2019). According to Dr. Robert Kastenbaum (d. 2013), a recognized scholar on the psychology of death, “Families who had lost a member in the September 11 disaster felt they could not really start to go on with their lives until the dead had been ‘brought home’ in some meaningful sense of the term.” He also stipulated that although the victims were no longer alive, they were not yet “safely dead” either, leaving both victims and their families “in a limbic zone between one identity and another” (Kastenbaum 2004, 7). In the absence of human remains, and

A. Drakakis (*) National September 11 Memorial Museum, New York City, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 E. M. Zucker, D. J. Simon (eds.), Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




perhaps in service to alleviating some of the anxieties associated with the “limbic” zone that Kastenbaum characterized, objects connected to victims become all the more meaningful. Becoming acute witnesses to the difficult history of 9/11 and its aftermaths, these objects as potent transmitters of even very personal memories have the ability to spark connection, particularly when interpreted in a public museum setting. At the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City, objects recovered at Ground Zero and otherwise,1 form a large part of a permanent collection of nearly 70,000 items. Of these, nearly half are in digital format. This is due in no small part to the fact that 2001 was a watershed moment for technology in many ways. Media estimates claim that nearly one-third of the world population witnessed the 9/11 attacks unfold in real time despite the fact that there was no YouTube, Facebook, or iPhone, and dial-up Internet access was the norm (Small 2018). Also, while camera phones would not be introduced to the US consumer market until 2002, the event was documented on numerous digital devices as well as on film and video (Hill 2013). The digital artifacts in the 9/11 museum’s collection are mostly photographs and moving imagery that capture the life of the World Trade Center in its prime, the events of 9/11 as they unfolded from myriad geographical perspectives, the recovery period at Ground Zero, and local and international depictions of spontaneous memorialization. They also include images of 9/11 victims donated by families and friends that illustrate their lives lived: holidays, birthdays, vacations, graduations, weddings, and childbirths, as well as the subtler moments in between. The repository is thus perpetually expanding as images are continuously being donated. The museum has also collected and preserved archival audio such as answering machine messages left by those who were trapped in the Towers or on one of the four hijacked airplanes, and Fire Department of New York (“FDNY”) dispatch calls from the day. The latter illuminate the actions of certain firefighter-responders leading up to moments before the buildings collapsed, as they responded to 9-1-1 calls from the upper registers of the stricken Towers. Furthermore, as part of the museum’s acquisition efforts, there is a robust oral history initiative, whereupon over 1000 interviews with various members of 9/11-affected communities have been recorded and archived since the Museum’s formation as a nonprofit entity in 2006. Stories related to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and the six individuals killed in the precursor attack, are also reflected in the collection. While the museum continues to collect and record oral histories, only edited clips from select



interviews are currently accessible via the museum’s flagship website. However, efforts are underway to transcribe the growing collection of interviews and make them accessible on the website via “Inside the Collection,” an online catalogue with a searchable database. Outside of the Museum’s permanent collection and primary mission-­ driven scope, there is a series of other documentation efforts that reside exclusively in the online landscape. One example is the Artists’ Registry, a digital database for art created across all mediums, in response to the 9/11 attacks by members of a diverse artistic community. The database, which is an actively growing arm of the Museum’s website, reflects the democratic breadth of artistic response to 9/11. It offers opportunity for a constructive statement on 9/11’s imprint on global society to be assessed through the visual, musical, and written expressions contributed to the site by amateur and professional artists alike from all over the world. It is not formally curated, and, therefore, strives to be an honest, populist forum that honors the sentiments and processes behind 9/11-inspired art. In addition, a collection of archived websites, captured with the Internet Archive’s web crawling service, Archive-It, was started with a similar intent. From 2008 to 2018, the museum built a digital repository consisting of seven terabytes of online material drawn from websites created in memory of 9/11 victims, personal testimonies published on blogs, remembrances shared on heavily trafficked memorial sites like Legacy. com, and widespread reaction to major events like the death of Osama bin Laden, and other geopolitical repercussions of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The museum has endeavored to track and collect the history of responses to 9/11 as it has unfurled across the web. These are just two examples in which the museum has attempted to harness the online landscape as host to a digital repository for public contribution and consumption, and as a fertile collecting ground of 9/11-related digital heritage. It remains a challenge to consider how to effectively draw upon these types of collections in museum exhibition settings, and how to thematically organize, conserve, and catalogue the corpora collected to make it meaningfully accessible. There are ethical factors to take into account, as well. However, the value in doing the collecting is clear, and is an important first step toward understanding the full interpretive potential of this digital content and any therapeutic, educational, and sociological benefit that it might possess. Furthermore, such a collection is valuable not only because it captures a wide variety of responses, perspectives, and 9/11-related narratives, but because it can potentially offer insight into how collective



memory might shift with the passage of time. As scholars have observed through the analysis of ‘real-time’ archiving conducted in the aftermaths of the 2015 and 2016 attacks in France, these digital heritage collections, “open up a fertile terrain for research at a moment when ‘what we need really is actualité in Michel Foucault’s sense: what we are becoming. This is happening now, between noise and oblivion” (Schafer et al. 2019, 15). The 9/11 Memorial Museum seeks to facilitate a conversation with the dead in part through naming those who died along the bronze parapet peripheries of the reflecting pools set within the Towers’ twin acre footprints in the aboveground memorial. Within the museum, these names are separated out as individuals from the mass body of disaster through the exhibition of objects that belonged to them, audio remembrances that speak to their vibrant lives lived, and digital displays. In effort to explore the relationship between material and digital culture artifacts in the 9/11 Museum’s exhibitions and collections, this chapter presents three case studies. It also considers how the use of technology in the museum’s memorial exhibition can engage audiences, intensify storytelling, and have the potential to act as an enduring platform for the evolution of memorialization, should it be nurtured to grow in this capacity. At a time when museums are changing to meet the needs of younger audiences, seeking to be more experiential in their exhibition design, and extending into the social domain, this is a case for using new media and digital collections in tandem with physical objects, to deepen storytelling power and human connectivity to the implications of mass violence (Savage-Yamazaki 2019). This chapter also attempts to reflect on different museum collecting practices and how they might come to help us better understand the therapeutic and educational benefits of collecting around memorialization.

Randolph Scott For a period of time, the family of 48-year-old World Trade Center victim Randolph Scott had no physical remains of their loved one to help make sense of his death in the 9/11 attacks. In 2001, Scott was living in Connecticut with his wife and three daughters. On September 11, he was on the South Tower’s 84th floor at Euro Brokers, an international brokerage firm. At 9:03 am, hijacked United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. The airplane struck between the 77th and 85th floors. Given that Scott was in his 84th floor office at the time—directly within the building’s impacted zone—his wife, Denise, had



presumed that it was likely that her husband had died instantly. The family was able to find a degree of solace in believing that he may have escaped suffering as a result. Years after the attacks, in an early stage of the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s collecting efforts, the Museum acquired a handwritten note from a lower Manhattan Federal Reserve Bank employee who had been handed it on the morning of September 11 by an evacuee running from the debris cloud. The evacuee had encountered the piece of paper on a street outside the World Trade Center before the South Tower collapsed at 9:59 a.m. At first glance, the object could appear unremarkable, a standard piece of 8½ × 11″ white paper likely from a ream of printer sheets ubiquitous to any office setting. It bears a message on it, however, a haunting plea handwritten in black ink pen: “84th Floor/West Office/12 people trapped.” To the immediate left of the message, near the bottom half of the “8” in “84th” is a small, but noticeable, brownish-red smudge. The handwriting is large and legible but gives the impression that it was hastily scribed with readily available tools at hand: 8½ × 11″ printer paper and probably a Bic pen, or a writing implement of a similar type. The paper is slightly creased down the middle and crinkled but completely intact. As Museum curators and exhibition developers worked together to sculpt the narrative threads of what would eventually become the primary historical exhibition, through artifacts, archival audio, first-person testimony, and multimedia; this note came to powerfully represent the chaos and confusion that erupted on the streets of lower Manhattan on the morning of the 9/11 attacks. In many ways, it also stood in for stories and details from the day that would remain unknown and questions that would likely never be answered. Had this note been plunged to the street through a broken window on the 84th floor from one of the Towers? It seemed impossible that we’d ever come to know for sure how it ended up on the street that morning, identify who wrote it, or understand how it entered the sightline of a lower Manhattan evacuee. How it then passed into the hands of someone who safeguarded it for nearly eight years before relinquishing it to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, added an even deeper layer of unfathomability to the existence of this ephemeral object, and to its provenance. As often tends to be the case, particularly when documenting contemporary historical events as they repercuss, some time needed to pass before further research would reveal more to this artifact’s story. While 9/11 Memorial Museum staff prepared for the installation of nearly 800 objects—this note among them—that would populate its inaugural



exhibitions, forensic archeologists at the New  York City Medical Examiner’s office tested the smudge adjacent to the hastily scribed message. In July 2011, it was confirmed that the smudge was a fingerprint of dried blood, and a subsequent DNA test matched it to Randolph Scott. When Denise Scott first saw the note in 2011, ten years after her husband’s death, she immediately recognized the handwriting as her husband’s. She waited until her youngest daughter was out of college to address its existence and share it with her children. Upon receiving this information, one of her daughters remarked, “Daddy must have been so scared;” Denise replied, “No, your father was hopeful” (Todd and McConnell 2019). We infer a lot of meaning from objects—both personally and collectively—particularly from those that are connected to episodes of trauma, violence, and conflict. The objects act as unifiers between the living and the deceased, as the 84th floor note powerfully illustrates. In a museum context, these types of objects can assume a unique type of cultural power. This note is a fascinating example of an artifact that, at first, represented 9/11  in a sweeping, abstract sense but later came to speak to a man’s attempt to save himself and the people he was with in the moments following the strike on the tower on that day. It gives the Museum’s curators the ability to not only probe deeper into what transpired within the Twin Towers that morning, but to explore the bold actions that individuals took to try to save themselves and each other. It speaks to the mettle, self-­ possession, and generosity that people are capable of exhibiting under duress and in extremis. It begs us to look inward and ask ourselves the unsettling question, “How would I have felt or acted if I were in Randolph Scott’s life-threatening position that day?” In the words of 9/11 Memorial Museum CEO and president, Alice Greenwald: “Despite the rhetoric, terrorist attacks don’t, in reality, strike abstractions like ‘the West’ or ‘American values,’ they strike people” (Greenwald 2007).

Marisa DiNardo Schorpp Several recovered property items returned to 9/11 victims’ families are on view in the Museum’s permanent exhibitions. A particularly powerful example is a pocketbook that belonged to 38-year-old Marisa DiNardo Schorpp, a commodities broker at Cantor Fitzgerald, a financial services firm with offices located just a few floors below the iconic Windows on the World restaurant, which was located high in the World Trade Center’s



North Tower. About a year after 9/11, Marisa’s pocketbook was recovered and returned to her mother, Ester. The object’s exterior bears many telltale signs of the trauma it endured—it is visibly coated in Ground Zero ash, and partially melted. However, the pocketbook contents survived relatively intact. Marisa’s wallet and the plastic credit cards, Blockbuster Video card, and New York City Metro Card that it contains, appear uncomfortably spared unlike the fate of their owner. Within the wallet, a yellow receipt also survived completely intact, which offers a deeper layer of insight into the character of the woman who wore this pocketbook over her shoulder when she reported to her 105th floor office for an 8:15 a.m. meeting on the morning of 9/11 (Fig. 1). The evening prior was Marisa’s mother’s birthday and the two had celebrated in the company of other family members and close friends at the restaurant Windows on the World atop the World Trade Center’s North Tower. “We ordered great wine and food, danced and laughed until 1:30a.m.,” recalled her brother (New York Times 2001). A hefty total sum on the receipt reflects the fun-loving spirit and the generosity of the hostess, who was clearly intent on making her mother’s birthday extremely special. Marisa’s mother and brother donated these items in 2008, seven years after the tragedy and nearly six years prior to the Museum’s opening in May 2014. At this time, the museum was in a very early iteration of its

Fig. 1  Recovered pocketbook, wallet, and receipt belonging to Marisa DiNardo / Collection 9/11 Museum, Gift of Ester DiNardo, Photo by Matt Flynn



construction and had only digital renderings to offer a sense of what the exhibition spaces would eventually look like. The pocketbook, wallet, and receipt were selected for inclusion in the inaugural display of recovered property items in the museum’s memorial exhibition. The exhibit as it exists today provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about the individuals from over 90 nations and from as young as 2½ years old to 85, who lost their lives on 9/11. Ubiquitous, everyday objects that dodged destruction like the pocketbook characterize a large part of the 9/11 Museum’s permanent collection. Sans interpretation and out of context, they might seem perplexing. But when paired with stories or anecdotes about the individuals to whom these items once belonged, largely offered by those who knew and loved them, these artifacts can become imbued with a humanizing energy in the abstraction of mass tragedy. An excerpt from a 2008 interview that Marisa’s mother Ester did with StoryCorps,2 a national oral history initiative and nonprofit partner to the 9/11 Museum, further activated her recovered property items when they were displayed in the memorial exhibition. While the artifacts had to be rotated off view after a year for long-term preservation purposes and to provide space for another victim’s story to be shared with the public, the excerpt from Ester’s interview and photographs of Marisa’s recovered pocketbook and its contents remain accessible through digital touchscreen tables, located proximate to the artifact cases. The transcript of the interview reads: The last time I saw my daughter, it was the night before September 11. It was my birthday and she ask me if I would like to go spend my birthday at the Window of the World and I said ‘yes, I like that,’ so we all went there, the whole family and during the night we stop by the windows and I said, ‘what a beautiful place, I feel like I’m up in Heaven, it’s so pretty. And she said to me, ‘Mom, I got you on the top of the world.’ The next morning, when I saw the plane just hit the North Tower – and that’s where she was – I said, ‘I know Marisa’s very strong, she’s very soft heart, and she always help other people.’ I says, ‘probably she’s helping somebody, probably she got down.’ I could not think that she was not around anymore. About a year later, a policeman called me, and he said ‘Your daughter’s name was Marisa? DiNardo?’ I says, ‘yes,’ I said, ‘why? You found something?’ He says, ‘well, we found her pocketbook.’ He told me to go pick it up, and that’s when it really felt that she was not here anymore. (StoryCorps 2008)3

The visitor experience of connecting with Marisa through the physical presentation of her pocketbook in the Museum’s memorial exhibition



space inspires further engagement with her story via the digital artifacts that are accessible through her touchscreen table profile. However, because the long-term preservation of the recovered property items could be jeopardized if left on permanent view, and given the importance of honoring other victims of the 9/11/01 and 2/26/93 attacks in limited exhibition space, it is not a sustainable option. Arguably, the alternative to retain Marisa’s pocketbook in the memorial exhibition space— albeit in digital form—gives visitors an opportunity to view images of the pocketbook and its contents alongside photographs of Marisa’s life lived and the audio clip from Ester’s 2008 StoryCorps interview. It therefore generates a layered experience by which the visitor has the agency to decide how deeply they want to connect with an individual victim’s story. This demonstrates one way in which materiality and digitality can merge and unlock a more profound connection to Marisa, a vibrant, kind-hearted, successful young woman, as well as with her mother’s joyful memories of her, and the pain of her loss. The authenticity of these artifacts and spoken remembrance help make the museum a truthful source of information. The point where the material and digital representations of trauma unite can create space for a unique type of storytelling that contextualizes objects in a way that lends depth to the stories and attaches them to their owners. In the case of Marisa’s pocketbook, which was salvaged from Ground Zero and is clearly evocative of this traumatic provenance in its battered, dust-­ covered state, the opportunity to see photos of her with her family and friends and hear anecdotes about her from those who knew and loved her helps make her more than a casualty of mass violence. Additionally, the layered experience afforded by a mixed presentation of material and digital artifacts acknowledges that an emotional threshold exists in the museum’s visitorship, and that meaning making and connection are deeply personal experiences. Meaning is also derived from the locality and placement within the museum where the individual encounters these artifacts and their stories. The encounter is preceded by the journey visitors take to the site. It begins at street level where the memorial, “Reflecting Absence” occupies 8 of the 16 acres that the original World Trade Center complex formerly spanned. Set within the Towers’ twin-acre footprints are two human-made waterfalls which emphasize the lack of verticality that once defined the World Trade Center area and preserve the footprints of the buildings by transforming them into massive voids. Approximately 26,000 gallons of water crash over the 30-foot black granite walls, per minute, generating white



noise that helps to subdue some of the surrounding sounds of lower Manhattan (Blais and Rasic 2015, 206). The names of victims inscribed along the peripheries of the waterfalls are organized by the locations and circumstances in which victims found themselves during the attacks. Within these groupings, names are arranged in a system of “meaningful adjacencies,” which means that friends and colleagues appear together, as well as members of the four flight crews, and first-responder agencies and units. The memorial’s twin volumes expand into the museum space. Encased in foamed aluminum, they are omnipresent throughout the visitor’s descent to bedrock—the foundation of the original World Trade Center— approximately seven stories below street level. The volumes hover above archeological remains of the buildings’ foundational box columns that ring their respective acre footprints. It is here, at bedrock, where the bulk of the museum’s exhibitry resides. After moving down a gently sloping ramp, evocative of the ramp built at Ground Zero during the nine-month recovery effort to facilitate the removal of large steel debris, the visitor makes their final descent alongside a fragment of a staircase used by some to successfully evacuate from the North Tower on 9/11. The memorial exhibition is situated in the volume of the World Trade Center’s South Tower, near the base of this staircase. To enter, one must cross over a small footbridge that protects the box column remnants, many of which were shaved down to bedrock during the recovery. Additional poignancy lies in the fact that these in-situ archeological artifacts were preserved due to a grassroots advocacy effort spearheaded by a dedicated group of 9/11 family members. The exhibition, located in the hollows of the South Tower, consists of an array of modern technology that supports the union of digital and physical artifacts. At touchscreen tables, visitors can scroll through 2983 portrait images, representing the known casualties of the 9/11 attacks, as well as the six victims of the earlier February 26, 1993, bombing of the World Trade Center. By tapping on an image, visitors may bring up a profile for that person. These profiles are populated with a variety of digital media connected to the individual including a biographical sketch of the individual written by the museum staff; digitized photographs and images of personal objects; and scanned ephemera, largely consisting of eulogies, memorial programs, and later remembrance initiatives. In addition to recovered property items, objects included might reflect a victim’s



professional accomplishments, cultural or religious identity, hobbies, sports team fandom, or collecting proclivities—just to name a few of the general themes that have emerged and been thus far identified. Some of the objects were donated to the 9/11 Museum by families and friends of the victims, and others were given to us on temporary custody to photograph or digitize and add to their loved one’s table profile. Spoken remembrances like Ester DiNardo’s can be queued up on these tables and heard by picking up a listening wand, for a private, individualized listening experience. These tables are located proximate to artifact cases and to a wall lined from floor to ceiling with portrait photographs of each victim. Victim profiles are projected in a smaller, darker “inner chamber” portion of the exhibition as well, which forms the literal core of the space. Here, audio remembrances also play and are experienced ambiently in this more intimate—yet communal—setting. Visitors can sit on benches that form the outer edge of the dimly lit room. Archeological remains from the original World Trade Center’s foundation are visible beneath the glass floor.4 Although over 18 years have passed since 2001, the 9/11 Museum continues to collect both physical and digital artifacts, particularly digital ones. In fact, perhaps this opens up another way in which “Memorialization Unmoored,” the subtitle of this volume, can be interpreted. With collecting efforts underway in perpetuity, it feels as if the public memorialization effort, of which the 9/11 Museum is a part of, is unmoored in time and unmoored in generation. Memory, after all, can be eternal, especially when we nurture it. The Museum’s curators hope that victims’ friends and relatives will see the touchscreen table profiles in the memorial exhibition as one example of a memorial that they can add to over time, and one that their descendants can feel a sense of ownership over as time inevitably moves forward. Interactions between the physical and digital realms open up many avenues for storytelling, especially in the context of a memorial museum. I would be remiss, however, in not addressing the unique power of the website as artifact: a digital human remain in many respects. As Attila Marton, a historian of digital memory studies, explained: “With the rise of the internet and the services it brings forth, a rapidly increasing degree of our cultural heritage is either being migrated or already born into digitality, resulting in a new breed of cultural artifact that is ephemeral, networked and dependent on computational operations” (Marton 2011).



Avnish Ramanbhai Patel One particularly unique example from the Museum’s supplementary collecting effort via Archive-It, an internet webpage archiving site, is a personal blog that was maintained by Avnish Patel before he was killed on 9/11. Avnish was a 28-year-old research analyst at Fred Alger Management. On 9/11, he was at his office on the 93rd floor of the North Tower. His blog details his extensive world travels to places like Thailand and New Zealand, interest in black-and-white photography, and personal hobbies like reading novels, playing squash, and going to CRUNCH gym. Regardless of his wanderlust, however, Avnish had been drawn to New York City from a very young age. As an 11-year-old growing up in London, Avnish convinced his parents to allow him to emigrate to the United States to live with an uncle of his in Connecticut. After high school, he went on to graduate from New York University. According to his brother Yogesh, attempting to persuade Avnish to move out to Long Island was a nonstarter. “His love for New York City was immense,” his brother relayed to The New York Times, shortly after 9/11. “He just wanted to be there” (New York Times Staff 2002). The photos on his blog, and the charming captions that Avnish wrote to accompany many of them, are a testament to the depth of that love. In one of the museum’s screen captures of his blog, Avnish wrote, “New York is the place I consider home. By New York, I only mean Manhattan (to me the other parts don’t matter). After living here almost nine years, I really haven’t spent time around NYC with my camera. Here are a few I do have.” Two of three images that follow this remark depict the World Trade Center and to caption the first one, Avnish wrote: “Of the two little silver buildings that look alike, I work in the one on the left. I am only a few floors from the top. The view is amazing” (Patel 2008)!!! His pride and enthusiasm for his workplace remain palpable. He also includes a hyperlink to another page on his blog that contains his own black-and-white images from a photography class that he had developed and printed himself. Three of the images eternalize the view from his World Trade Center office floor window: one captures an early morning view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges spanning a shimmering East River, and another depicts a sweeping northward view of Manhattan punctuated by the Empire State Building (Fig. 2). Next to that image, Avnish wrote, “The City!! Need I say more?” In the third image taken from his 93rd floor office window, the Statue of Liberty’s contours rise from Liberty Island in a landscape view of New York


Fig. 2  Screenshot of Avnish Patel’s blog




Harbor. Above the image, Avnish exclaimed, “Freedom! Liberty! The ultimate symbol of the greatest city in the world” (Patel 2008). A few years ago, my colleague fielded an emotional phone call from his brother Yogesh, explaining that had vanished from the Internet and replaced by some pharmaceutical company’s domain. Since the Museum  had archived the blog, it only took accessing Archive-It’s “Wayback Machine,” a digital archive of the World Wide Web, for us to produce screen grabs from every layer of Avnish’s site, providing his brother with the ability to re-create it, at his discretion, and restore Avnish’s digital thumbprint to the vast, but searchable, and interconnected world of the Internet (Internet Archive n.d.). The details that we can cull from Avnish’s website, a born-digital artifact from the Internet landscape at the cusp of the new millennium, help us construct a deeper portrait of who Avnish was. This level of insight additionally informs the museum’s response when encountering material artifacts that are connected to him—such as a recovered piece of singed letterhead bearing his name and title. This single sheet of paper was expelled from the 93rd floor of the North Tower when the plane struck the building on 9/11. It floated a few blocks uptown, eventually coming to land on the roof deck of an apartment on Warren Street in TriBeCa. Sometime after the Towers collapsed, the apartment’s resident, John McGuire, stepped outside to assess possible damage. His roof deck was covered with debris from the World Trade Center. In 2014, McGuire’s partner, Stephanie Zessos, reflected on his instinct to preserve some of the detritus that he encountered: “For some reason that he [McGuire] still can’t really explain, he put as much [World Trade Center debris] as he could into a plastic bag, and for years it sat on a high shelf in a closet until I suggested he donate it to the museum” (Zessos 2014). Among the documents, floppy disks, and other small remnants from the buildings that had landed on their Warren Street rooftop, McGuire found and saved the sheet of paper with Avnish’s letterhead and signature. He did not know who Avnish Patel was, but feared for his fate when he realized how high up in the North Tower he worked. McGuire and Zessos safeguarded the piece of paper, unsure of what they would ever do with it, but certain that it warranted preservation. The museum accessioned eight paper fragments (including the one with Avnish’s letterhead) from McGuire’s collection in 2012. In 2011, McGuire recorded an oral history with the Museum, where he detailed the discovery of debris on his roof deck, evacuating from his apartment when 7 World Trade Center collapsed, as well as his



volunteer activities at Ground Zero in the months after the attacks (National September 11 Memorial Museum 2011). The paper bearing Avnish’s name, title, and company—Fred Alger Management—is on view in the Museum’s primary historical exhibition and is one of the first physical objects that visitors encounter in that space. While it is certainly powerful on its own, with much to be surmised from its condition and context, when considered with the insights afforded by an encounter with the pages of Avnish’s archived blog, something even deeper happens: a nuanced understanding of the historical arc of September 11, 2001, merges with a glimpse into the irreplaceable individuality of one of the nearly 3000 people killed as a result of those terrorist attacks.

Conclusion In 2006, American cultural critic Edward Rothstein, well known for his analyses of museums, wrote: “Museums are morphing. Once they were chroniclers or collectors, gathering objects and facts and putting them on display. Now many have become crucibles: places where a cultural identity is hammered out, refined, and reshaped. Along the way they also have become community centers, where a group gathers to celebrate its past, commemorate its tragedies and convey its achievements to others” (Rothstein 2006). This shift lends itself naturally to the democratization of museum collections, and their invocation of the lives of individual people. With new media at our fingertips, it is possible not only to expand storytelling capabilities in exhibitions, but to also make content more widely accessible both inside and out of the museum space itself through online repositories. At the National September 11 Memorial Museum, technology enables the commemorative arm of the institution to operate with a certain kind of fluidity. On the one hand, it can enable remote contributions to the museum’s collections. Family members and friends of victims can email photos to curatorial staff or send print photos to be scanned and returned. There is the possibility of participation in the museum’s memorialization efforts without the need to travel to lower Manhattan, or visit the site itself (as some would prefer not to do for logistical or emotional reasons). New digital artifacts can be added to the touchscreen tables in the memorial exhibition as the museum receives and processes these types of acquisitions. With this specific type of fluidity, one hope is that it alleviates the pressure to contribute artifacts before a bereaved friend or relative feels



able to do so. It also creates a platform that can grow and change as time passes and new generations of victims’ relatives can nurture their own connections to their loved ones’ legacies. Beyond the museum’s walls, the preservation of websites like Avnish’s blog, keep stories like his alive through screen shots. This “fixing” of objects through preservation complements the fluidity of a continuously evolving collection as more artifacts and stories are added. Technology and artifacts born of our constantly evolving digital culture can help convey the rippling effects of terroristic violence and other instances of mass trauma. When placed in dialogue with the material culture of large-scale disasters and memorialization, they can create a depth of storytelling and experience to be harnessed by cultural institutions in productive and impactful ways.

Notes 1. The 9/11 Memorial Museum’s growing repository of recovered property items emanate from the Pentagon and Flight 93 crash sites, in addition to the World Trade Center site/“Ground Zero.” The museum has acquired (and continues to actively collect) nonrecovered material as well, such as photographs, videotapes, voice messages, workplace memorabilia, incident-­ specific documents, and original writings including letters, emails, and diaries that help to illuminate personal experiences during and after September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993. The museum also collects photographs, personal mementos, and other memorial materials to commemorate the lives of those who perished on 9/11 and in the February 26, 1993, attack on the World Trade Center. This collecting effort in particular supports the presentation of victims in the memorial exhibition, In Memoriam, which provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about and connect to the victims of these attacks. 2. 3. Author’s transcription. 4. Details regarding the development of the 9/11 Memorial Museum and curatorial intent come from the experience of the author, Alexandra Drakakis.

Bibliography Blais, Allison, and Lynn Rasic. 2015. A Place of Remembrance. Washington, DC: National Geographic.



Bote, Joshua. 2019. A Firefighter Who Died on 9/11 Was Finally Laid to Rest. 1,109 Victims Remain Unidentified. USA Today, September 11. https://www. Accessed 21 Oct 2019. DiNardo, Ester. 2008. Interview Facilitated by Anna Walters for StoryCorps, October 9. National September 11 Memorial Museum Collection. Greenwald, Alice M. 2007. Why Does Memory Matter? Speech, Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, May 18. Accessed 21 Oct 2019. Hill, Simon. 2013. From J-Phone to Lumia 1020: A Complete History of the Camera Phone. Digital Trends, August 11. mobile/camera-phone-history/. Accessed 6 Nov 2019. Kastenbaum, Robert. 2004. Why Funerals? Generations 28 (2): 5–10. Marton, Attila. 2011. Social Memory and the Digital Domain: The Canonization of Digital Cultural Artefacts. Paper Presented at the 27th European Group for Organizational Studies Colloquium (EGOS), Gothenburg, July. https://www. Canonization_of_Digital_Cultural_Artefacts. Accessed 21 Oct 2019. McGuire, John. 2011. Interview by Jenny Pachucki. August 9. National September 11 Memorial Museum Collection. New York Times Staff. 2002. On the Road with a Camera: Avnish Patel. In Portraits: 9/11/01: The Collected “Portraits of Grief” from the New York Times. New York City: Times Books. Patel, Avnish. 2008. (Blog). Internet Archive. Accessed 6 Nov 2019. Rothstein, Edward. 2006. Museum of the African Diaspora Offers Anecdotal Evidence of a Homesick Humanity. New York Times, July 20. https://www. Accessed 6 Nov 2019. Savage-Yamazaki, Bevin. 2019. Millennials at the Museum. Dialogue Issue 33, Designing Cities for People, Gensler, n.d. Accessed 6 Nov 2019. Schafer, Valérie, et al. 2019. Paris and Nice Terrorist Attacks: Exploring Twitter and Web Archives. Media, War & Conflict 12 (2): 1–18. Small, Zachary. 2018. The Brooklyn Historical Society Will Remember 9/11 with an Artist’s Live-Stream of the Attack. Hyperallergic, September 10. Accessed 6 Nov 2019.



Todd, Brian, and Dugald McConnell. 2019. Note Lets Family Know 9/11 Victim Went Down Fighting., September 12, 2012. https://www.cnn. com/2012/09/11/us/9-11-lost-note/index.html. Accessed 21 Oct 2019. Wayback Machine. Internet Archive. Zessos, Stephanie. 2014. A Sheet of Paper’s 9/11 Journey. The New York Times, September 7. Accessed 6 Nov 2019.

Teaching and Learning in Virtual Places of Exception: Gone GITMO and the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History Cathlin Goulding

Introduction: The First Glimpse In January 2002, the first photographs of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp were released for public viewing. Taken by US Navy photographer Shane T. McCoy and released by the Pentagon, the photos showed the newly constructed Camp X-Ray, a makeshift prison designed to hold suspected terrorists rounded up in some of the first military campaigns in Afghanistan. In them, the world saw Guantánamo’s new arrivals for the first time: orange uniform-clad prisoners, arms shackled, and blindfolded, kneeling in the gravel as U.S. soldiers hovered above their bent bodies. One photograph showed a prisoner being dragged toward a staunch line of waiting soldiers. Behind the prisoners, the camp was gridded by chainlinked fences, rocky pathways, and spiky coils of barbed wire. With the release of these images, Guantánamo was no longer simply a geographic C. Goulding (*) Hunter College, The City University of New York, New York, NY, USA © The Author(s) 2020 E. M. Zucker, D. J. Simon (eds.), Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




locale or a noun in a White House press release. It became a symbol of the confusion and panic of our post-9/11 world, embodying both dismay for the treatment of the prisoners and relief at a seemingly quarantined threat. It was a place where our political leanings and anxieties played out contradictorily and without remittance. These early photographs of Guantánamo were among the most prominent visual renderings of the extensions of state power in a post-9/11 world. But while these extensions played out trenchantly in the treatment of Guantánamo’s detainees, they also, often invisibly, exerted effects on the daily lives of the American public. Increased surveillance of those suspected of terrorist activities, close monitoring of telephone calls and emails, and the creation of new bureaucratic bodies to manage airport and border security were among the multitude of policies and practices created under the Bush administration and rationalized in the name of a seeming national emergency. For the most part, public debate was silenced in the name of acting swiftly for the sake of public safety. In the post-9/11 climate of widespread panic and fear, the argument that we needed to take immediate and aggressive action was one easily made. Secrecy and tightly controlled decision-making processes replaced open deliberation. Soon such measures which were once abnormal and temporary became “part of the taken-for-granted world of ‘how things are’… influencing how we perceive and talk about everyday life, including mundane as well as significant events” (Linke and Smith 2009, 64). In the 13 years since 9/11, as Mark Danner (2011) writes in The New  York Review of Books, we have existed in a “subtly different country, and though we have grown accustomed to these changes and think little of them now, certain words still appear often enough in the news—Guantánamo, indefinite detention, torture—to remind us that ours remains a strange America” (para. 2). The normalization and broad acceptance of such mechanisms poses a real challenge and mandate to create forums that stimulate a public response, one that, like the release of Camp X-Ray’s photos, works as a kind of “shock” to public consciousness and provides a jolting reminder that we do in fact live in a “strange America.” A number of individuals and organizations have provoked these jolts of consciousness through their engagements with heightened national security post-9/11, many of which have had a significant impact on public consciousness. Journalists, filmmakers, activists, and artists have created forums and works of art that subvert the argument that extralegal practices during times of heightened national security are necessary and lawful.



Films like Taxi to the Dark Side (Blumenthal and Gibney 2007), WikiLeaks’ (2011) release of classified documents on Guantánamo’s detainees, and former National Security Administration (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s telephone and internet surveillance programs (Gellman 2013) are but a few examples of the potent efforts to defy the much-propagated image of post-9/11 security initiatives as safeguards that are limited in scope and “clean” (Van Veeren 2013). These mediums and media appear to effectively foment public outrage and awareness. However, it is unclear whether these forums, despite their availability, push the US public to wrestle with our vulnerability to the same extralegalities to which Guantánamo’s prisoners are bound. How do we, then, process and think through the notion that Guantánamo is not an instance of things that happen to other people but is one mechanism of a larger structure of state power that increasingly exerts its effects on us all?

Locating Guantánamo in Virtual Place Located on a 45-square mile spread in Cuba, the site has operated as a US naval base since 1903, when Cuba and the United States entered into a perpetual lease agreement that permitted its sole jurisdiction and control over the area. The base was subsequently converted into a detention camp for Haitians and Cubans seeking asylum in the 1990s, which prepared the space for its present function as a repository for “unlawful combatants,” most held without charge or trial (Johns 2005; “Reporter reflects On Obama’s stalled effort to close Guantánamo” 2014). Soon after September 11, 2001, inmates—persons suspected of terrorist activity and arrested in military campaigns in Afghanistan—were brought to Guantánamo’s Camp X-Ray, the temporary outdoor prison space that soon gave way to a “state of the art” prison facility named Camp Delta. At the time of this writing, GITMO holds 40 detainees, with approximately 780 persons detained over the course of its operations. Despite promises from the Obama administration, GITMO remained open. The complicated process of repatriation to their former home countries has slowed the transfer of “low-threat” prisoners. In January 2018, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to maintain the prison’s operations, later asking Congress in his State of the Union address “to continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists” (Neuman 2018, para 3).



Guantánamo’s critics consider the prison as indicative of a “state of exception,” or a legal climate put into effect when the normal legal order is suspended, and new policies, practices, and structures are folded into the legal order by an executive body, often in the name of national security or emergency (Danner 2011; Hussain 2007). This broad outline of the state of exception originates with the German political philosopher and jurist Carl Schmitt (1922), who argued the survival of the state depends on its capacity to target and eliminate an “enemy” who poses a threat to the state’s territories. In cases of “extreme peril, [which constitute] a danger to the existence of the state” (Schmitt 1922, 6), the state’s sovereign power puts the existing legal order aside and institutes a state of exception. The theory of a state of exception was expansively reconsidered by the continental political philosopher Giorgio Agamben (1998, 1999, 2005). In Agamben’s formulation, an executive authority determines whose life is worth living and who will be abandoned by the polity, left to persist in a suspended state between life and death, inclusion and exclusion. The state of exception is, however, more than a legal concept or analytic construct. It materializes in the concentration camp, in prisons, or in other kinds of buildings that exclude and hold persons during times when exceptional laws and practices become the norm. What happens when these places of exception become places for teaching and learning? When visitors enter and walk through these places, they take in the outlines and shape of the landscape, the architectures, and constraints of the built environment. They immerse in the palpable sensations of a prison camp, exposed to the stories and memories of those who were incarcerated while being in the actual site. As Guantánamo stretches the limitations of intelligibility, so does the pedagogical challenge it poses in representing the “bare lives” (Agamben 1998) that inhabit its environs. Deborah Britzman (1998) describes a “difficult knowledge” in which the learner must “engage in the limit of thought—where thought stops, what it cannot bear to know, what it must shut out to think as it does” (156). In yet another line of thinking, Elizabeth Ellsworth’s (2005) body of work on outside-of-school pedagogy instructively posits structures of thinking and feeling that allow learning the unbearable. According to Ellsworth, “anomalous” places for learning—such as public art, memorial sites, and museums—“invite sensations of being somewhere in between thinking and feeling, of being in motion through the space and time of learning as a lived experience with an open, unforeseeable future” (Ellsworth 2005, 17).



In this chapter, I examine two virtual materializations of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba: Gone Gitmo and the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History. In 2007, journalist and filmmaker Nonny de la Peña and the media artist Peggy Weil created Gone Gitmo, a virtual re-creation of Guantánamo in a platform called Second Life. In this blazingly colorful digital replica of Guantánamo, visitors could experience the prison “first-­ hand” on the web. A few years later, in 2012, the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History, a web-based art museum premised on the imaginary closure of the prison, opened its digital doors. The website features the work of several artists who respond to the prison via mixed-­ media, photography, and art installations. It also provides articles and other educational materials, as well as detailing a speculative history of Guantánamo’s closure and the museum’s creation and construction. As outlier, “anomalous” places of learning, these digital Guantánamos are designed to render the unthinkable (and unfeelable) possible through visualities, digital simulacrum, narrative, and satire. The designers of these two digital Guantánamos tinkered with and hacked (Lewis and Friedrich 2016) notions of place, upending phenomenological conceptions of place as concrete, material, or bound to human memory and histories. Not encumbered by human and geographical concerns, the designers envisioned and fabricated the place of exception as it might be to educate public audiences, promote civic engagement, and stimulate dialogue about the imprisonment of suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay Prison.1

Gone GITMO: Immersive Experiences in a Digital Place of Exception In 2007, five years after the first prisoners were brought to Guantánamo, the journalist and filmmaker Nonny de la Peña came across a grant opportunity on the MacArthur Foundation website for documentary-related media. De la Peña had made a documentary, Unconstitutional (De la Peña 2004), about the post-9/11 extensions of executive power. She contacted Peggy Weil, a digital game designer, and proposed collaborating on what she called a “Guantánamo Game.” Weil was interested—but not in making a game. The word “game,” she commented, “chafes” (Weil 2007a, February 12, para 2). Prevailing attitudes about video games insinuated that they were an ineffective and inappropriate form of media to take on social issues. But Weil, who worked at the Interactive Media Division of



the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, a center dedicated to, as she put it, the “so-called Serious Games Movement” (ibid.), was attempting to do exactly that. At the time, she was working on a game sponsored by the Annenberg Foundation called The Redistricting Game, an educational video game that allows players to take on the role of redistricting consultants and manipulate district lines to ensure a fairer election process. The pair was awarded a MacArthur-funded residency at the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC). Over ten days in June 2007, with the assistance of BAVC developers, De la Peña and Weil conceived and designed the first iteration of Gone GITMO. At the time of the project’s conception, De la Peña and Weil were interested in generating a response to the practices and politics of the Bush administration’s “global war on terror.” Both designers were already committed to social justice-oriented work. As mentioned, De la Peña had made a documentary about the Patriot Act; similarly, Weil worked on games that critiqued abuses of power by governmental authorities. On a blog documenting their design process, Weil described joining a protest in which activists donned the orange jumpsuits of Guantánamo’s prisoners. “It was a reminder that the fundamental purpose of this project has nothing to do with virtual worlds or second life (sic) or technology,” she wrote, “but instead aims to remind citizens, wherever they live their lives, that Guantánamo Prison is a disgrace to our nation” (Weil 2008, January 12, para 1). De la Peña shared these sentiments. On the project’s blog, she described “one of those mornings when I really hate Guantánamo Bay Prison. In fact, it is anger I feel. How did the government get away with destroying habeas corpus rights in this country…in MY country?” (De la Peña 2007, February 12, para 1). Political outrage appeared to unite these two designers and spurred their work of creating the digital place of exception as a place of learning. Guantánamo on Second Life De la Peña and Weil decided that Second Life, the online role-playing community in which video game developers and laypeople alike buy digital acreage and create landscapes in which users explore and interact, was a fitting and affordable forum for their project. Free for users and accessed through a web browser, in gamer vernacular Second Life2 is akin to a “massively multiplayer online role-playing game” (MMORPG). An MMORPG is a gaming environment in which many users develop online



personas and interact synchronously within a virtual world, such as the superlatively popular The World of Warcraft. Within the platform—or using a game developer application like Unity or Open Simulator—users construct 3-D buildings, landscapes, and elaborate, textured environments. In Second Life, users take the form of avatars, or virtual transmutations of human beings with user-designed clothing, skin colors, hair, and body types. Directed by the mouse, an avatar walks, runs, or, in the most efficacious form of travel, flies to different worlds within the platform. Different lands and areas also have a unique Second Life URL, making it possible for avatars to access specific areas without traveling long distances. At its peak in 2008, the platform had up to 15 million registered users (Morbey and Steele 2013). However, interest in the site—which some have seen as clunky and excessively commercially minded—has flagged (Young 2010). The platform had become a “magnate for mockery” (Jamison 2017, para 6) or, worse, “the thing you haven’t bothered to joke about for years” (Jamison 2017, para 6). As of 2016, 600,000 users login regularly in a month and 300,000 first-time users login and do not return (Maiberg 2016). Gone GITMO was built on “Kula Island,” a piece of land donated to the project. Avatars enter the prison through a URL link, searching for the location on the platform, or, in the rarer case, simply wandering (or flying) onto the island. The entrance is a gleaming portal that deposits avatars into a cage in Guantánamo’s Camp X-Ray. Like the real GITMO, the chain-link grid is desolate and bare; the guard towers rise above it menacingly. Meanwhile, the sky is light blue, and clouds dissipate across the horizon. Beyond the barbed wire, the ocean is visible and palm trees dot a beach. Avatars can move outside the cages, where they stumble across various embedded documentary clips about Guantánamo. Avatars can also venture through a simulacrum of Camp Delta, the permanent prison facility at Guantánamo, where scenarios are staged inside of cells on torture and the withholding of due process of law. During Gone GITMO’s active presence on Second Life, De la Peña and Weil constructed and added large-scale forums and galleries for avatars to gather, hear lectures, listen to the latest news reports, and peruse literary responses to GITMO. Immersive Journalism As “serious” game designers, Weil and De la Peña capitalized on Second Life’s simulated environment not as entertainment, but as a pedagogical



opening for the public to virtually experience a fully operating but inaccessible prison. The rationale behind Gone GITMO rests on the educative value of proximity, of creating a confinement-like experience for visitors. The challenge, according to De la Peña and Weil, was to “communicate a gravely serious matter in a medium known for games and entertainment” (Weil 2008, January 11, para 5). The designers’ goals in designing the virtual prison were threefold. One, they wanted to raise awareness among the public about the denial of basic constitutional rights at the prison; two, they wanted to expose the conditions and abusive practices to public audiences; and three, they wanted to create a dialogue over social policy and cultivate advocacy in support of Guantánamo’s closure. To undertake these aims, the designers drew on theories and research in digital media and neuroscience that posited a relation between virtual simulations and ethical engagement (Sanchez-Vives and Slater 2005; Slater and Wilbur 1997). De la Peña coined the term “immersive journalism” to describe virtual environments in which individuals can view and inhabit news stories through 3-D goggles and other apparatuses (De la Peña et al. 2010). The idea behind immersive journalism is to recondition media consumers into active participants, mitigating the complacence and passivity that often characterizes the act of news viewership. Users often wear Oculus Rift-type goggles, an audiovisual headset in which the visual field is 110 degrees, and they view a news story in 3-D animation or photographic form. The scenes mimic real incidents, portraying people at the scene or utilizing real sounds from the event. The viewer’s body movements are responsive in real time, cued by sensors placed around the room. De la Peña’s company—the Emblematic Group—has developed other projects that engage with contentious social issues through 3-D visualizations and virtual reality (VR) equipment. Based on an actual event, Hunger in Los Angeles places viewers in the role of spectators as a man with diabetes faints while waiting in line at a food bank in Downtown Los Angeles (Hunger in Los Angeles  – Immersive Journalism 2013). In Use of Force, viewers witness US border police beat to death Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, a Mexican national who attempted to recross the border after deportation. These immersive 3-D audiovisual environments aim to position users as quasi-firsthand witnesses to police violence, abuses of the state, terrorism, and poverty. In a dim mobilization of Giorgio Agamben’s (1998) notion of “witnessing,” participants are placed proximally to disturbing scenes and thereby implicated as moral actors.



In November 2016, I attended StoryNext, a conference in New York City on virtual reality and journalism, where De la Peña was speaking on a panel. Several media companies had VR setups in the lobby. I tried the Discovery Channel’s VR goggles for a new initiative aimed at plunging their viewers in environments as diverse as “spooky castles” to American Civil War battlefields. Initially skeptical about the claims of VR to transport users into other “worlds,” I was surprised by the total disorientation experienced after putting on the goggles. White polka-dotted sharks swerved by me through the water. When I looked upward or side to side, my field of vision shifted, enabling a view of a whale shark’s white underbelly. Audio captured the fins maneuvering in the water and the muted sounds of underwater submersion. Minus the diver gear, the sensations of cold and pressure, and, of course, the specter of mortality, I was engaging in a form of “swimming.” I also experienced a certain measure of fear while wearing the goggles, cautiously moving so as not to stumble into objects and people. There is a split consciousness involved in virtual reality—the body coexists in the virtual and the real environment, rendering full presence in either difficult to achieve. Sensations of Confinement Gone GITMO is designed to be an immersive learning experience, one in which the user inhabits the body of the prisoner and makes quasi-agentic moves within the zone of the prison camp. The experience of visiting GITMO on Second Life is not intended to be a realistic facsimile of Guantánamo. Rather, it is a “hyperreal” (Eco 1990) place in which architectures and experiences of incarceration are heightened and reconfigured to create a narrative path for the avatar. Mel Slater, a collaborator of Weil and De la Peña, researches “place illusion” (Slater 2009) and “presence” (Slater and Wilbur 1997) in VR environments. Slater found that when VR systems offer bodily senses and movements akin to those found in real life, a sense of “placeness” (De la Peña et al. 2010) is lent to the virtual surroundings. In other words, if a virtual hand or leg moves in correspondence to one’s actual body parts, then the illusion of being in place becomes possible. While Gone GITMO does not offer the total immersion offered by VR goggles and audio, it does permit correspondences between the physical body and the virtual one (De la Peña 2013). Under the user’s direction, an avatar can pick objects up, move, slow down, or turn, permitting—as Slater’s research argues—an illusory sense of place.



At the game’s virtual Guantánamo, the virtual-body/real-body alignments are shaped and sometimes constrained by architectures of confinement and scenarios of punishment and torture. The educational experience offered by Gone GITMO counters some of the assumptions of other types of place-based pedagogy. The learning self, these digital projects argue, need not experience a direct sensorial encounter; learning does not just occur under conditions of bodily presence in real space and time. Arriving at GITMO  The experience of being a prisoner in Gone GITMO starts in a digital replica of a C-17 transport plane like those that transferred Guantánamo’s prisoners from US military campaigns in the Middle East to Cuba (De la Peña 2008). Avatars walk into the plane and, once inside, are strapped down and can no longer control their virtual bodies. According to the game’s blog, De la Peña wanted visitors to be “stripped of rights and orientation and to experience a sense of the violence and despair of being hooded and herded into a cage” (Weil 2007a, June 8, para 2). There was one technicality, however, in trying to forcibly remove avatars into this digital GITMO. Avatars in Second Life are agents of their own bodies and movements; consequently, to carry out this entrapment, De la Peña and Weil had to build in a device called a “Heads Up Display” (HUD). To enter GITMO on Second Life, the visitor must click on an agreement to relinquish control and submit to their own incarceration. The HUD was a necessary compromise to achieve a forceful introduction to the place of exception. Once inside the plane, visitors watch helplessly as their avatar is strapped down by invisible forces. The point of view of the game changes dramatically from the third person to the first. A hood is forced down over users’ heads, and only glimpses of light can be seen through the cloth. There are loud, cacophonous sounds of the plane landing, heavy breathing, and a male voice that shouts, “Shut Up!” Gravel crunches. Suddenly, the hood is lifted. The perspective shifts to the usual third-person point of view in Second Life. Avatars arrive at Camp X-Ray shackled and bent down in a cage. There are no soldiers or guards in Gone GITMO, a purposive design decision. De la Peña felt allowing avatars to take on the role of soldiers would result in an ethically suspect Stanford Prison Experiment-type scenario (Priego 2011). As a result, the aggression experienced when the avatar arrives seems to be the result of magical wizardry. For example, the avatar is strapped down by an invisible force in the C-17 plane. Nonetheless,



the cinematic entrance into GITMO is designed to simulate sensations of claustrophobia and disorientation within the avatar. Part of the pedagogy of this game, then, is related to the cultivation of affective states of being; the avatar-as-learner is transposed—if only faintly—into the prisoner’s body. Cagey Sensations  In Second Life, digital “building blocks” (called primes) are used to construct buildings. Gone GITMO’s designers created customized building blocks to build Camp X-Ray in the platform. From a Google image, they duplicated the razor wire at GITMO and stacked these virtual blocks of wire to create a series of cages. These cages, while appearing somewhat cartoonish (as do all buildings, objects, and people on Second Life), still carry a certain affective power. Most penal architecture is intended, as David Welch (2015) writes, “to say something bold about itself” (79), relying on an “audience capable of being startled at the sight of the prison” (79). On the game’s blog, Weil gives a telling example of the sensations of incarceration that can be felt even when one is a virtual prisoner. While the team was building out the prison on Second Life during their residency at BAVC, De la Peña logged into Second Life and found her avatar inside of one of the cages. However, simultaneously, a developer at BAVC had “sealed off” all the cages while making alterations to the game’s design. Given this interference, De la Peña’s avatar was trapped, “virtually frantic, trying to get out” (Weil 2007c, June 9, para 1). Reflecting on the experience of being entrapped in a digital cage at GITMO, De la Peña wrote: [We] have the inevitable discussion about how real and unreal the whole thing is. How “I” felt imprisoned. How such feelings were nonsense, especially given the truth of the prison. But it was effective—and maybe it can work as a teaching tool and help raise awareness about it what means to lose habeas corpus rights. (Weil 2007c, June 9, para 3)

The designers, then, acknowledge the partiality—and some of the absurdity—in aiming to simulate a “real” prison experience onto visitors. And yet, even in virtual form, the caged environment provokes some feelings of anxiety—a provocation that the designers, as I read it, broached as a worthy pedagogical venture. In Gone GITMO, the illusion of place and bodily presence is both vividly realized and not realized, a space of tension in which the designers



knowingly sit (Peggy Weil, personal communication, 8/5/2015). Some of the soberness is, of course, lost due to digitization and the hyperreality of Second Life. For all its plays on the senses, it cannot entirely capitalize on real proximity to achieve an educative effect. In a study of the US Holocaust Museum’s Kristallnacht on Second Life, Bryoni Trezise (2012) argues that the embodied experiences of the avatar, and its subjection to digital “pain,” places undue emphasis on the “moral certitude” (393) of the spectator. Digital embodiment positions spectators to the ethically advantageous feeling of their “own capacity for feeling the feelings of others, more than (feeling) anything in particular” (Trezise 2012, 393). Lieutenant Commander Charlie Swift, a lawyer to Guantánamo’s detainees who visited the prison over the course of several years, commented on Gone GITMO’s design, saying, “I applaud [the designers’] efforts…The irony is it’s the lack of senses that is the real hell [at the real GITMO], not any particular thing that happens…You’re strapped down, can’t see or hear, can’t move, your muscles are cramping” (Sancton 2008, para 9). Swift’s comments on the day-to-day isolation and immobility of prisoners—a situation that cannot be captured by Gone GITMO, as the designers acknowledge—speaks to the limitations of such simulations in providing a truly immersive and educative experience for visitors. Still, in being constrained within the digital place of exception—especially in the cages of Camp X-Ray—there is “something personal, something that is a part of the user over which he or she has lost control, offering perhaps the shadow of the type of feeling that might be associated with real events” (De la Peña et al. 2010, p. 293). The loss of control, even if temporary and inconsequential, is part of how Gone GITMO shapes the learning self. These are, indeed, “shadowy” places of pedagogy, wherein the learner experiences captivity dimly, at a distance. This shadow place, though, holds possibilities of re-attunement for the learner, an opening to, as the designers aim, ally with the grievous physical and psychological conditions of GITMO’s prisoners. Classrooms at GITMO One of the earliest conversations between the designers about Gone GITMO’s design was related to the work of classroom teachers. In 2007, Weil queried De la Peña about the basic concept she wanted to convey with their prospective game. De la Peña replied, “Habeas corpus. Our nation is denying the basic right of habeas corpus to detainees” (Weil



2007a, February 12, para 3). Weil asked her to imagine how such a concept would be communicated without the use of technology. De la Peña said that she wanted to build a kit for classroom teachers where students could build a prison, “inhabit it,” and then “tear it down” (Weil 2007a, February 12, para 3). Since the project originated with pointedly educational aims, it is not surprising that university professors eventually used the game as a classroom space and, moreover, that classrooms were added to the prison’s build for lectures and teach-ins. The design of the classroom spaces at Gone GITMO are intended to accommodate freedom of movement and seeing. Traditional brick and mortar spaces “don’t really make sense where students can, say, fly” (Weil 2007d, August 17, para 2). Gone GITMO’s classrooms are more like amphitheaters in which imagery and film are projected into the open air. In September 2007, Seton Hall, a law school in Newark, New Jersey, hosted a conference on Constitution Day which involved law school students, professors, and others in a discussion on post-9/11 intelligence gathering and surveillance. Gone GITMO’s designers asked Mark Denbeaux, the conference chair, if he might consider simulcasting the conference at their digital Guantánamo. “I’m 64 years old, I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about but it sounds good,” he responded in an email (Weil 2007d, August 15, para 2). To accommodate the crowd of avatar-attendees, Gone GITMO moved off its original island to a new piece of real estate lent to the project by USC’s Interactive Media Division. They constructed an amphitheater called Habeas Commons, a “classroom for the disembodied” (Weil 2007e, August 17, para 2) where avatars could be seated, view the simulcast of the conference on a projected screen, and participate in dialogue. Over the course of Gone GITMO’s operations, the amphitheater was reused for events cosponsored by the ACLU and the Culture Project. Another space for learning at Gone GITMO is a decidedly unprison-like series of galleries, which serve as a kind of respite from the repressive digital Camp X-Ray and Camp Delta. One gallery has chairs for avatars to sit and listen to a recorded reading of classified documents released under the Freedom of Information Act; another posts poetry written by GITMO detainees. Gone GITMO is not alone in mobilizing Second Life as a virtual classroom. York University in Toronto ran a course on disaster management on Second Life. Students took up roles as paramedics, fire chiefs, and city mayors and responded to disaster scenes within the platform (Morbey and Steele 2013). Second Life offers instructors the ability to expose learners



to scenarios impossible in a brick-and-mortar classroom, and for learners to take responsive actions when confronted with conditions of emergency, confinement, and commerce. It also permits a wide range of learners across geographic locations to participate. Like most technologies, Second Life poses limitations. Jeffrey Young (2010), a technology reporter for the Chronicle of Higher Education, describes his forays into Second Life’s educational spaces. “I regularly get stuck between pieces of virtual furniture, wander around aimlessly looking for the person I’m trying to meet up with,” he observed, “or lose patience as I wait for my online avatar to walk between virtual classrooms” (para. 4). Gone GITMO and other Second Life educational ventures seem most promising when creatively deployed as immersive simulations and sensation-­driven places rather than as simply virtual versions of the lecture hall, classroom, or discussion area. As Young notes, “If all you need to do is chat with far-flung students, there are many easier ways to do it” (para. 4). The Pain of Others: Bridging the Epistemological Gap In Gone GITMO, the designers intended to bring avatars virtually “close” to the bodily pain experienced by prisoners. The game is designed to expose the avatar-as-learner to a virtual mimicry of torture. Consequently, the knowledge acquisition at work in the game is, in part, related to comprehending the psychic relationship between interrogator and prisoner. In The Body in Pain, Elaine Scarry (1987) argues that it is difficult to find precise language to describe one’s physical pain to another. Pain is so often expressed through utterances like gasps, exhortations, and screams—and even in these expressions, no one can truly come to “know” the pain of another. An “epistemological” gap exists between the person who experiences pain and the one who does not. Scarry explains that one of the reasons interrogators at prisons like Guantánamo can conduct acts of torture is because of this knowledge gap: “The pain is hugely present to the prisoners and absent to the torturer” (Scarry 1987, 46). Attempts by organizations like Amnesty International to convey the pain experienced by political prisoners in their publications and outreach efforts is to “restore to each person tortured his or her voice” (p. 50) and “[give] the pain a place in the world” (50). Similarly, through first-person testimony and replications of the psychic conditions of torture, De la Peña and Weil aimed to give the body in pain a “place” in a virtual reality.



The question of how to represent torture was a thorny one for the designers. De la Peña and Weil were clear on the point that avatars would not be tortured in their prison. They elected not to “trivialize torture or imprisonment by torturing an avatar,” recognizing that “imprisoning an avatar is not the same experience as the real thing” (Weil 2007b, June 8, para. 2). Rather than directly submitting to torture, avatars experience a “hands off” approach to it. When avatars enter cells at Gone GITMO’s replica of Camp Delta, audio transcripts of interrogation sessions play. While in a solitary confinement chamber, an avatar is prompted to ask questions of out-of-view guards about the length of detainment or request to call a lawyer. The answer, however, is always negative (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1  A torture chamber in Gone Gitmo (Weil 2008c, May 2). (Images related to Gone GITMO on Second Life and the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History are used with the consent of the project’s designers. See referenced citations for image source)



Visitors to the site can also enter into a white paneled “Chamber of Contemplation”—another design choice that sidesteps creating an actual torture chamber—which allows for visitors to see RSS feeds of news developments on the prison and read prisoners’ testimonies. The pedagogical challenge faced by the designers was the impossibility of representing the torture experience and the undesirability of a kind of “hyper-visuality” that may be dangerously enticing or gratifying for certain audiences. Testimony in Tandem  One of the other attempts by the designers to ally visitors with the suffering of prisoners is to strategically place documentary film footage throughout the prison’s digital architecture. Movements of the avatar in Camp X-Ray trigger projections of films, such as emotional footage of detainee Mozaam Begg’s father reading from his son’s letters. “The film clips serve to authenticate our depiction, and as moving, rather than still, images, they serve to immerse the viewer in a cinematic experience,” explained Weil (Weil 2007b, June 9, para. 1). The designers brought their technical savvy to bear in creating these documentary encounters in the game. The 3-D features of the prison—the cages, the pathways, and buildings—are augmented with 2-D footage of prisoners. Avatars begin the Gone GITMO experience in a cage; once they stand, a real-life image of prisoners in a similar cage appears. Walking in the path between cages precipitates a film of prisoners making that same journey embedded in the pathway. These embedded videos were intended to “evoke a strangely effective ‘mirror’ effect” (Weil 2007b, June 9, para. 2). Such designs make possible a kind of witnessing that has been made near-­impossible by official photographs released by the US government. Michelle Brown (2009) explains that prisons are “fundamentally directed at a kind of erasure— through the prohibition and suspension of the social—of human interaction and communication” (14). The design of the game includes testimony and news footage to undo this erasure of bodily pain and suffering of prisoners and so prompt empathy from visitors. Stress Positions  Gone GITMO was an early iteration of “immersive journalism,” and the project’s collaborators were continually experimenting with virtual techniques to bridge the epistemological gap between the pain experienced by prisoners and a complacent, unknowing public. In July 2009, De la Peña and Weil joined Dr. Mel Slater, a researcher of virtual environments, at his lab in Barcelona, Spain to collaborate on an



experiment in virtual reality and torture. They constructed a virtual environment that simulated the “stress position” that Guantánamo’s prisoners were forced into by interrogators. As a method of torture, prisoners stood for extended periods on the balls of their feet on top of a chair (De la Peña 2009). In this experiment at Slater’s Barcelona lab, research participants were asked to sit—not stand—on a chair. A headset was placed their heads and a sensor band around their waists. Participants held their hands behind their backs and closed their eyes. When prompted, participants opened their eyes and, through the goggles, viewed a strange figure: A man in an orange bodysuit standing with his hands behind his back, crouched on a wooden box in a dark room. The audio was muffled and strident, as though coming through the wall. Suddenly, the visual perspective through the headset shifted to the first person. If participants looked to one side of the room, they saw a “virtual mirror” of themselves (as the orange-suited figure) in the stress position. The audio continued with an interrogator singing “God Bless America” along with loud, crashing noises. Interviewed at the end of the experiment, participants explained that they distinctively felt “you cannot control things. You are helpless” (De la Peña 2009, n.p.) and, after staying in the scenario, reported “you start to believe that you are him” (De la Peña 2009, n.p.). While Gone GITMO did not include these same kinds of learning activities, the experiment speaks broadly to the approach that De la Peña and Weil took in their project. They aimed for those same identifications between the prisoner and visitor, utilizing technology to enmesh visitors into uncomfortable, if not terrifying, worlds. These kinds of laboratory experiments attempt to prove that virtual reality can, in fact, replicate conditions and sensations of torture without torturing participants. VR torture permits a transmission of “just enough” discomfort so that the faint whiff of prisoners’ experiences can be passed on to the learner. Elaine Scarry (1987) writes that “torture consists of acts that magnify the way in which pain destroys a person’s world, self, and voice.” But political and educational interventions can “become not only a denunciation of the pain but almost a diminution of the pain; a partial reversal of the process of torture itself” (Scarry 1987, 50). The intriguing proposition of immersive experiences like Gone GITMO is that learners’ willingness to engage in simulations of confinement could, somehow, be one small move in “reversing” the pain of others.



The Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History: “Disturbing” the Narrative of the Place of Exception At first glance, the homepage for the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History looks like a typical museum’s website: it contains a Visitor’s Guide. The museum hours are listed (it is closed on Mondays). There is information on becoming a member and links to the permanent exhibitions. The structure, layout, navigation, and rhetoric are familiar and straightforward. A splintering from this familiarity, however, is achieved in a single sentence. The website explains that the museum is located on the “former site of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba” (Guantánamo Bay Art and History Museum 2012, emphasis added) and is “dedicated to remembering the U.S. Prison which was active between 2002 and 2012” (Guantánamo Bay Art and History Museum 2012d). There is an image of President Obama as he soberly signs the order to close the prison. The conceit of the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History emerges in its viewer’s double take. Premised on an imaginary closure of Guantánamo, the museum is a sham, a playful inversion of history. Differently from Gone GITMO’s hyperreal simulacra and immersive approaches, the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History opts to represent Guantánamo through speculative narration and a satiric remaking of the prison’s present. In 2012, the museum was conceived and created by Ian Allen Paul, an artist, activist, and doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The museum is hosted online at Its current exhibitions feature seven artists whose work ranges from photography to video installation and mixed-media pieces. On the website, The Jumah al-Dossari Center for Critical Studies offers several academic articles, including an essay by Judith Butler and two articles about the state of exception. The museum also has an active social media presence. Its Twitter feed and Facebook page give updates about the weather conditions in Cuba, educational resources, and enticements to view the art exhibits. Occasionally, the museum’s holdings are exhibited in brick-and-mortar art spaces. Playing the role of curator, Ian Allen Paul, the site’s creator, gives lectures and participates in Q&A sessions. So far, the museum has exhibited at Brown University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at San Diego.



The approach of the museum is situated in the work of an activist-­ artist-­ scholar collective called the Electronic Disturbance Theater (Ensemble 1993, 1996). Ricardo Dominquez, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, is one of the group’s founding members and is a frequent collaborator with Paul, the museum’s coordinator. The group turns a focus on “cyberactivism,” producing various tools to stage virtual sit-ins and organize protests. One of their most noted efforts was a web tool called FloodNet, which directed protesters onto specific servers at the same time, which “flooded” websites with auto-reload requests. During the 1990s, in support of the Zapatista movement, the group used FloodNet on the president of Mexico’s website and that of the US Defense Department (Lane 2003). The philosophy of the group, which very much informed the design and approach of the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History, is to shake web users out of complacent internet surfing: “Its actions transform the passive use of an electronic tool—obedient clicking—into an active disruption of the quiescence of the screen that imposes itself into the heart of power structures” (Bernard 2000). The project of both the Theater and the museum was to creatively deploy the internet to stir political engagement. Minor Hacks The idea for the museum started in the quintessential repository of contemporary geographic knowledge, Google Maps. While pursuing the application, Paul noticed that certain places were censored and marked as having “no data,” like military bases and federal buildings in Washington, DC. The military base and prison complex as Guantánamo was also one of these data-less places. While satellite photos of the area were visible, roads and buildings were not. For Paul, these absences from the maps were a “space to start thinking about the relationship between the state, secrecy, and the military” (personal communication, 6/21/2015). Shortly, Paul decided to enact a “minor hack” (personal communication, 6/21/2015) of the maps. The application permits users to submit edits; therefore, restaurants, organizations, businesses, and the like get added to Google Maps by suggestion. A network of volunteers manages Google Maps and, to post an entry, they only require some proof that the place exists, such as a website or photograph. Paul thought, “If they’re not going to list [the prison at Guantánamo] here, then let’s just replace it with something else that we want there instead” (personal communication, 6/21/2015). That



“something else,” he decided, would be a museum. When people searched for the prison at Guantánamo on Google Maps, Paul anticipated, they would find a museum instead, provoking a “minor cognitive dissonance” (personal communication, 6/21/2015) in the seeker. Considering what evidence he would need to get approval from Google, Paul enlisted the help of artists and friends and developed a fully formed museum website. The origin of the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History, then, began with the desire to upend blank, security-protected geographies with another kind of mapping. Once the site was created and added to the web, it was submitted—and accepted—into Google Maps (Guantánamo Bay Art and History Museum 2012d). Occasionally, the museum is taken off Google Maps. But the museum is then resubmitted for entry—sometimes by cyber activists unknown to Paul—and once again appears on the map. The cycle of deletion and reemergence becomes a meta-commentary about the secretive and occlusive nature of Guantánamo. As Paul explained it, the hacking of Google Maps and the insertion of the museum into the virtual geography of the most frequently used map on the planet, “[acknowledges] certain kinds of history” (personal communication, 1/14/2016). Disturbance and Re-Storying The state of exception, as Giorgio Agamben (2005) reminds us, was originally intended to be a temporary extension of state power in times of national crisis or war. But it has, especially in a post-9/11 world, become a permanent fixture of governance. What made the so-called “war on terror” so egregious was not the proliferation of surveillance and controls exerted on day-to-day life, but the American public’s complacent acceptance of them. Part of the underlying design philosophy behind the Guantánamo Museum of Art and History involves creating a “disturbance” that unseats the normalization of the state of exception. The museum is a move to, as Paul explained, “[disturb] those kinds of normative ways of thinking about the world” and “[create] things that appear normal and making them very strange and worthy of re-inspection” (personal communication, 6/21/2015). Guantánamo exists in a limbo-like state. It was illegal to open it, and is now nearly impossible to shutter, given all the legal complexities of transferring prisoners. “It occupies that intersection between inevitability and impossibility—it’s a very strange place,” said Paul (personal communication,



6/21/2015). According to Paul, they wanted to “create this dissonance, this disturbance, and reaffirm the possibility and the necessity of closing Guantánamo—but at the same time [they] wanted to complicate the notion that that would be the end of the struggle” (personal communication, 6/21/2015). The museum’s designers and artists, then, did not want to make the mistake of offering a utopian vision of the future, one that projected an image of a “perfect world” where Guantánamo did not exist. Instead, the museum was intended to be a kind of meta-­commentary on issues of commemoration and how institutions participate in public memory. The museum’s designer and collaborators wanted to investigate this “strange” contemporary moment in which Guantánamo holds both the possibility of staying open interminably or closing. Fictional Closure  Paul and his collaborators wanted to define a speculative future for GITMO, in which the prison would be shuttered and a museum would take its place. In this version of the future, “[if] the museum is there, that means the prison can’t be there” (Ian Allen Paul, personal communication, 6/21/2015). Such purposeful inversion is foregrounded on the homepage for the museum, on which the tagline, “Collectively Remembering a Passed Future” appears. This oxymoronic line is indicative of the larger aims of this faux-museum—we cannot “remember” the future, nor can a future be “passed.” There is an inversion of logic here, an upside-down-ness in the phrase, one that communicates a bending and reshaping of time. Guantánamo, in our lived reality, has not closed, so the play on words here operate both as observation and a kind of forewarning. Have we or will we, intimates the phrase, pass on this opportunity to act? To close Guantánamo for good? The imaginary premise of the museum is communicated through a graphic timeline of the unwieldy process of closing Guantánamo. In this fictional narrative, Congress halted the closure and an international campaign ensued with protests and blockages that, ultimately, ensured that Guantánamo shuttered its doors in 2010. The timeline itself—which satirically mimics the formality of history textbooks and other official documents—argues for a future that has not yet arrived, suggesting that the closure of the prison will only occur if the will of leadership and pressures from international community and the American public are in place. The speculative history presented here acts as a history lesson—one in which political complacency and the evasion of executive promises should be met



with political urgency and public outcry. This message is further enforced in the stated mission of the museum, which posits that in “highlighting the diversity of practices and discourse which forced the closure of the prison that others will be able to draw from our praxis in future struggles for social justice” (Guantánamo Bay Art and History Museum 2012b). Through the conceit of the prison’s closure, the museum proposes an activation of public critique and protest. Aesthetic Responses to the State of Exception The museum contains a series of online exhibits by (real) visual and mixed-­ media artists from Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. These artists contributed pieces that consider a range of issues at stake. Installations address issues from the employment of torture and interrogation practices at Guantánamo to more abstract commentaries on space, confinement, and the American political landscape. The artists confront the problem of representing the unthinkable, such as violence against bodies and “strangers” and the physical and psychic distance of the American public to the prison. Breaking through the Quotidian  In one installation at the museum, the video artist Adam Harms (2012) explores some of the psychological torture techniques deployed at Guantánamo. His “Performing the Torture Playlist” is based on the CIA documentation of the pop music used on torture detainees, along with strobe lights and sleep deprivation. The piece is a video installation of various footage found of Americans singing karaoke to these songs (which include, ironically, “Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears and “I Love You” from the young children’s television show Barney). The effect of the video, which is exceedingly grainy, loud, and jarring, is meant to mimic the ruthlessness and excruciating psychic effect of such sounds on Guantánamo’s prisoners. Viewing the playlist, which is 59 minutes in length, a strangeness emerges. Harm’s use of “ordinary” Americans singing songs used to keep Guantánamo’s detainees awake and delirious reinforces the American public’s complicity with their plight. According to Paul, this installation provokes some of the strongest responses from visitors because of its familiarity: “It really tries to think about something that couldn’t be more everyday—pop music and what is considered essential to American culture



and the fact that it’s being weaponized very intensely” (personal communication, 6/21/2015). Connections to Histories and Architectures of Mass Incarceration  Some of the exhibits at the museum address the long-standing history of American carceralities. One of the museum’s permanent exhibits is a visual installation by Jenny Odell (2012) that uses satellite images from Google Earth of various prisons across the United States. Odell erases all landscape features in the satellite photographs and leaves only the pixelated images of prisoners’ bodies, prompting the viewer to consider the vast white space juxtaposed against clusters of prisoners, the boldness of their colored uniforms, and their shadows. Odell explains in her artist’s commentary that in these images “prison becomes not an abstract hole into which people disappear as statistics, but a physically real, organized space inside which people are partitioned into groups and different colored uniforms” (Guantánamo Bay Art and History Museum 2012a). Odell’s art employs an apparatus of surveillance in its creation, one which stands in contrast to the “clean” images of the prison that are packaged for public relations purposes. Guantánamo’s visual field is controlled and aligned with official rhetoric and, in photographs, prisoners are obscured and anonymous (but sufficiently restrained and controlled), and the physical plant appears to be state-of the-art, lawful, and, most confounding, humane. Almost counterintuitively, the absence of direct representation of suffering and physical pain in these satellite portraits forces audiences to consider what remains: the lived but bare existences of prisoners. In a sense, by leaving representations of detainment and confinement abstract and open, between absent and present, Odell permits visitors a space beyond cognition, one that allows for a range of emotional responses. “Playing Along” in Imaginary Geographies One of the key features of this project’s pedagogy is the unusual relationship it establishes between visitors and the museum as a figure of institutional authority. Much of the “learning” in traversing this digital place of exception relies on the extent to which visitors interpret and respond to the institution’s farcical nature. In other words, do visitors “read” the museum as a fake? Do they align a factual knowledge of Guantánamo’s status with the fiction the museum presents? The fiction of the museum relies chiefly on establishing and performing an “institutional” voice. Paul



explained to me that there are visitors to the website and attendees to the museum’s in-person events who believe the narrative that Guantánamo is closed, and the museum has been constructed in its place. “There’s always a certain number of people that will just buy into the fiction,” he said, which is understandable because the museum is so convincingly designed (personal communication, 6/21/2015). The authority is achieved through a series of methods, including, as Paul said, “using a certain kind of language, dressing a certain way, having a certain kind of quality in exhibition, having a website that has quite a bit of material on it, having an actual place on Google Maps” (personal communication, 6/21/2015). The pedagogy of this project lies in those possible moments of recognition, when the visitor does an anticipated double take, and conducts a critical reading and rejection of this institutional voice. “If you’re not careful and you’re not approaching it critically, it’s very easy to buy into,” said Paul, commenting on how visitors read the website (personal communication, 6/21/2015). The pedagogical address (Ellsworth 2005) of this museum lies in its double bind of truth-telling and lying. Guantánamo is closed, the museum tells us. But we, the visitor, know that this is not the case. In this fictive space, other kinds of truths are illuminated: Why isn’t Guantánamo closed? When will it close? What kind of political conditions have kept it open for so many years? The museum is not the first to deploy tactics of lying and truth-elision. The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California, for instance, is a modern-day “wonder cabinet” of curiosities, from microminiature sculptures perched on needlepoints to elegant portraits of canines launched into space during the Soviet Space Program. The museum’s austere atmosphere and erudite placard texts communicate “authenticity,” while its drawn-out, comical specificity and haphazard selection of objects suggest otherwise. The museum, as journalist Lawrence Weschler (1996) observes, positions visitors as “shimmering between wondering at (the marvels of nature) and wondering whether (any of this could possibly be true)” (p. 60). The attempt to keep visitors guessing at the real and the fake is part of its radical subversiveness. Along with the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the Staten Island Ferry Disaster (Hider 2017), a memorial established to commemorate a fictitious sinking of a ferry by a monstrous sea creature, and the Hokes Archive (Lyons 1994), a fabrication of entire ancient societies, the Aazudians and the Apasht, through lithographs and artifacts, are elaborate efforts to broadcast fake histories in the public sphere. Beauvais Lyons (1994), who created the Hokes Archive, explains



that these faux-museums cultivate a “critical awareness” (72) that emerges out of the “tension that exists between our scoffing common sense and our liberating imagination” (72). Faux museums operate skillfully in this zone of perpetrated confusion, unsettling audiences’ trust in institutional expertise, knowledge production, and historiography. Geography is playfully engaged on the museum’s website, another tool of the museum’s pedagogy. On the bottom of the homepage, there is a link to a “Plan Your Visit” page. On this page, there is a Google Map with a red drop-pin indicating the location of the museum in Cuba. The page humorously reminds visitors that because the “museum is located at the former site of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, making travel arrangements to visit the museum can be difficult” (Guantánamo Bay Art and History Museum 2012c). Given this predicament, the museum invites visitors to take advantage of the museum’s organized flights and boat service, as well as arrange for school and ecological tours. The conceit at work here, of course, is that the prison is not accessible to the public and that very few people—beyond certain public officials, lawyers, translators, prison guards, and other administrators/ workers—have been able to see and traverse the site. The detention camp is intentionally shrouded from media and public oversight. The openness and invitational quality demonstrated on this visitor’s page lampoons and subverts Guantánamo’s secrecy. Sustaining the Farce  Humor plays a complex role in presenting the institutional voice and sustaining the fiction of the museum. In 2016, the museum had a brick and mortar exhibition at the University of California, San Diego, where Ricardo Dominguez, one of the founders of The Electronic Disturbance Theater, is a professor. Both men gave a lecture about the museum and spoke in broader terms about the security state and surveillance. During these in-person events, according to Paul, there are typically three kinds of responses to the fictional narrative being presented. Some audience members, as mentioned above, trust the story that Guantánamo has closed and a museum has opened in its place. Others recognize the falsity of the narrative but “go along with it,” interacting with the curators in a tonally ironic manner. The final kind of response is a critical one, in which audience members want to engage the museum as a political or aesthetic project. The performance is continually contingent on audience members’ interpretative modes. When I asked Paul to tell me more about his performances as curator, he said:



It’s always very awkward—no one really knows where it’s going and everyone is a little nervous and no one is quite sure whether they’re being ethical or unethical about participating. It’s most strange when I get public talks about the project and then there’s a questions-and-answer period. During the public talks, I was going to talk as the curator, and that’s all within the fiction and I never hint it’s anything but real. So, it’s totally performative and it’s always the question of ‘will the questions be about as our project or as the actual museum?’ (Personal communication, 6/21/2015)

There is, as might be expected, a range of affective responses to the performance. As Paul explained: People would get aggravated and want to talk about it as our project. Sometimes people would come up to me and say, ‘Wow, it’s so great prison’s been closed’ and that’s also an awkward relationship, because you don’t want to trick people necessarily, but also you don’t want to deceive people rather, but that’s the way the project operates and you also have to let that run its course as well. (Personal communication, 6/21/2015)

Regardless of the audience members’ stances, the curators “try to make the fiction last as long as [they] can until it breaks down” (Ian Allen Paul, personal communication, 6/21/2015). The question of “lying” to visitors who buy into the fiction presents certain ethical dilemmas for the museum’s designers. Paul receives requests from educators to bring school groups to the museum. Sometimes these emails will be inquiries about the resources available at the museum, which Paul responds to in a straightforward manner. However, when teachers seem as though they really might bring their students to Cuba, the museum’s response is more evasive. “Sometimes I talk about how the military has temporarily closed access to the roads leading to the museum and so we’re temporarily closed, but we’ll get back to you when it’s available— stuff like this,” said Paul (personal communication, 6/21/2015). The educative value of the museum, in part, rests on an “ironic relation” (Ian Allen Paul, personal communication, 6/21/2015) between the visitor and website and the prompting of the visitor’s interpretative savvy and re-­ reading of the text offered on the site. In the era of fake news, the museum is a salient meta-commentary on the urgency of critically reading and interpreting online media. The Stanford History Education Group (2016) administered a series of 56 tasks to 7804 high school, middle school, and college students to assess



their ability to distinguish fake news from legitimate news sources, differentiate between advertisements and news articles, and analyze the trustworthiness of claims on social media, among other “civic online reasoning” skills. More than 80% of the students in the study believed that content labeled “sponsored content” was an actual news story and less than 20% of the students questioned the legitimacy of a fake photograph. The researchers did not mince words about today’s “digital natives”, saying: “Overall, young people’s ability to reason about information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak” (Stanford History Education Group 2016, 4). Given these observations, then, the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History sits in a pedagogically fragile position, the learner potentially entrapped in a ceaseless fiction.

Virtual Linkages to Suffering What does it mean to grapple with and learn from the detainees’ experiences at Guantánamo within these digital spaces? Do they permit us, as Susan Sontag (2003) wrote in her examination of war photography, Regarding the Pain of Others, to locate ourselves “on the same map as their suffering, [and]—in ways we might prefer not to imagine—be linked to their suffering”? (104). Similarly, Butler (2004) argues that “mourning” is a necessary part of a public response to Guantánamo and explains that only in grief does a collective responsibility emerge. The transitory quality of these sites may demonstrate the limitations of virtual spaces for grief and mourning. In 2010, Gone GITMO’s digital world was taken off of Second Life due to lack of funding, and was archived at Edgelab at Ryerson University in Canada. In 2013, it became an installation at the Museum of Modern Art in Moscow. Like its larger platform, Gone GITMO has fallen into a kind of digital ruin, an forestallment of its fictionalized, aspirational world in which a prison becomes a place of learning. So what does our “participation” in them, ultimately, indicate if we are to experience them solely as digital tourists who can enter and leave as we please, or if the sites themselves effectively disappear from the virtual landscape? Gone GITMO and the Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History rely on users’ willingness to immerse in a simulated carceral experience. In one case, visitors are tricked (or tickled) by the authenticity of its museological rhetoric. In another, visitors take on a digital body that submits to detainment and torture as a kind of empathic exercise. Both projects



aimed to bridge the cognitive and affective gap between prisoners and those on the outside. Yet, like many memory-related initiatives wherein a public is exposed to “difficult” history, the witness to violence remains at a temporary, safe, and intellectual distance. Within digital environments, the gestural nature of witnessing is exacerbated by the digital format, often inducing a kind of self-consciousness among visitors at the performativity of their engagement. Bryoni Trezise (2012), writing of her experience of traversing a digital Kristallnacht in Second Life, explained, “My avatar – as distinct from my own bodily ‘self’ – does not experience a corporeal affinity with the historical specificities of traumatic loss, it does not materially feel nor cannot materially ‘die’” (405). These digital simulations, as Trezise observes, have little to do with users’ actual feelings and more to do with putting them in touch with a capability for feeling. There may be, however, room for these kinds of modest effects. These two digital projects incite puzzlement, anxiety, and amusement and offer a fruitful beginning for the kinds of robust critique, considerations, and emotionality to which Sontag and Butler refer. There is and should be room within an education in the times of exception that allows for a subtle multiplicity of responses, be they “serious” or “humorous” in nature. In Kathleen Stewart’s (2007) unusual ethnographic research, Ordinary Affects, she writes of the more ordinary persuasions and forces that work on us intellectually and emotionally, arguing that confronting widespread social injustices and despair requires “not of a challenge to be achieved or an ideal to be realized, but a mode of attunement, a continuous responding to something not quite already given and yet somehow happening” (127). She describes the daily knowledge and learning in which we engage and suggests that these “ordinary affects” are a more quotidian form of encountering injustice. “Ordinary affects are the varied, surging capacities to affect and to be affected,” she writes, “that give everyday life the quality of a continual motion of relations, scenes, contingencies, and emergencies” (Stewart, 12–13). These projects prompt a range of ordinary affective states, ones that reflect the various kinds of attunement necessary for thinking within the exceptional state. The inchoate nature of the “public” requires diversity in the mechanisms and spaces within which thinking—in all its forms and arrivals—is made possible. However, further research is needed on design thinking, modalities, and audience responses, as well as how such designs can be further refined to provoke responsive attunement within the state of exception. These virtual places of exception are meant to “galvanize” political responses, as Paul told me in our interview and,


Fig. 2 A portentous tweet (GuantanamoBayMuseum 2017)







like most social justice-minded educational interventions, the impact on political action—the failure to close GITMO—will remain a murkier question. But, in the meantime, perhaps the most telling evidence of the verve and deftness of these sites’ pedagogy is the curiosity and searches of their visitors (Fig. 2).

Notes 1. To study GITMO and The Guantánamo Museum of Art and History, I interviewed the projects’ design leads, a total of three people. In addition to interview data, I drew on public talks and exhibitions on the projects that I either attended in person or viewed online. Extant documents, articles, and published research on the theories that underlie these virtual projects were also examined. 2. For a detailed account of Second Life’s populaces, social practices, and economies, see Boellstorff’s (2015) ethnographic study of the platform.



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The Slow Rise of Social Movement Organizations for Memorialization in Haiti: Lutte Contre Impunite, Devoire de Memoire-­ Haiti and Digitizing the Record on Atrocities Henry F. (Chip) Carey

In July–August 1964, some 600 Haitians peasants on the southeast border of the country in the villages of Mapou, Thiotte, Grand-Gosier, and BelleAnse were massacred by paramilitary Macoutes. President Francois Duvalier had the Macoutes murder as many as 300 individuals, including 30 from a single family. These series of massacres, the worst of the 29-year Duvalier dictatorship, reflected Francois Duvalier’s suspicion that the peasants had either aided the rebels based on both sides of the Dominican border or

In addition to the editors, I would like to acknowledge and thank Anne F. Fuller, Isabelle Clérié, and Jean-Philippe Belleau for sharing their experiences and ideas studying mass atrocities and memorialization initiatives in Haiti. Henry F. (Chip) Carey (*) Department of Political Science, Georgia State University, Decatur, GA, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 E. M. Zucker, D. J. Simon (eds.), Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




failed to inhibit or report on them to the local Macoute authorities. (Fuller 2019). Haiti has a history of many such events, mostly barely documented and almost all un-memorialized except in novels (Osson 2020). Haiti is justifiably proud of its status as the first in world history in which everyone was recognized as full citizens at its 1804 independence, the result of the world’s only successful slave revolution. Yet Haitians’ knowledge of mass atrocities, or of manifold other forms of suffering and slow deaths resulting from state-induced impoverishment, widespread corruption, and isolation from the mainstream world economy over the course of the ensuing 216 years, is low. Although there have been a handful of prosecutions for human rights violations in its history, such as the convictions of Luc Désir after the1986 fall of the Duvalier regime and the absentee defendants for the April 22, 1994 Raboteau massacre. Most massacres have hardly been acknowledged. The country has very few memorials, public commemorations, or public acknowledgment of its treacherous past (https:// Countries with few resources like Haiti have had little in the way of debate or historical reckoning with the truth. The arrival of new digital technologies has created or facilitated the opportunity to memorialize more recent events, including this largest series of peasant massacres, the largest known atrocities in Haitian history. Digitization has made such documentation and responsibility for guilt far more accessible for the mass public, as well as in elite debates. In the past decade, as a general matter, Kreyol videos and discussion on YouTube and other social media have proliferated in Haiti. For Haitians, whatever is uploaded on such media brings visibility to intense experiences, whether mass mobilizations or mass atrocities, such as, for example, the November 2018 murder of dozens of innocents in one of the country’s worst slums. Yet Haiti lacks a more complete reckoning with its past.1 While memorialization may or may not produce truth and reconciliation, it could nonetheless establish a basis for their possibility. It might also lead to political pacts, rehabilitation, or nudging, documentation, education, rehabilitation, accountability, and commemoration. This chapter represents the effort to depict the process of memorializing such massacres and is not focused on natural disasters, for which admittedly the inability to cope effectively is partly a government inability or inaction to prepare for and respond to such events.2 The effort to control the narrative of events going forward depends on who owns the ability to control digital presentations. Efforts to memorialize began with the arrest and initial prosecution of Jean-Claude Duvalier soon after his 2011



return to Haiti, when elderly, largely mulatto, affluent Haitians, largely female, presented their testimonies of atrocities at commemoration events, and subsequently compiled their evidence on well-documented websites, as well as videos of interviews of survivors of such massacres. Rarely, however, were atrocities recorded and documented in Haiti. Now in the age of YouTube, digitalization in the country is much more pervasive, as mobile phone internet access is made available through the company Digicel. However, compared with the rest of the Americas, Haiti, the poorest in the hemisphere, appears to be among the least digitized. About 15% of Haiti’s 11 million people had internet access in 2019. In June 2014, it was the lowest in the hemisphere’s major countries at 12% ( The incipient NGO digitization of history are just the first steps in a longue durée. With a history as abject and sad as Haiti’s, it is hard to imagine how greater attention to its historical record would not help avoid Santayana’s dictum that “those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it.”

Memorialization in Haiti The need for memorialization in Haiti is stark. Most Haitians know little about Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier’s 29-year (1957–1986) dictatorship,3 which responded to a small invasion by thirteen men with two mass atrocities and thousands of selective assassinations over the two generations of the sultanistic regime.4 The violence of the Duvalier period overall has been inadequately investigated and documented. More than three decades after the fall of the dictatorship, few books have been published in Haiti for Haitians.5 One earlier attempt of the pre-digital era, the Komite Pa Bliye (Never Forget Committee), founded in 1987 for commemoration, was overwhelmed by the intense repression of the eight years that followed the February 7, 1986, end of the 29-year Duvalier dictatorship. The massive assassinations during over a dozen different governments in that period were covered in the diaspora newspapers, Haiti Progres (Marxist out of Brooklyn), Haiti en March (centrist out of Miami) and Haiti Observateur (rightwing out of Brooklyn), but not so much inside Haiti, as with novels and books on atrocities published abroad. Furthermore, few in civil society are aware that the practice of selective assassinations was continued in the subsequent regimes of Jean-Bertrand Aristide (2000–2004), Michel Martelly (2011–2016), and Jovenel Moïse



(2017 to the present), as well as the occasional mass murder that claimed an estimated 3000 victims during the 1991–1994 coup government that overthrew Aristide only seven months after his February 7, 1991, inauguration. Haiti’s civil law system allows for prosecution and reparations (damages) from the single legal process. Two dozen people were named as the consorts in the 2012 Jean-Claude Duvalier trial, and they could have been pursued along with other 16 that were named as co-defendants. Yet, once “Baby Doc” died, his trial came to a halt even though his co-­ defendants were still living. The stalled investigation reflects intimidation, bribery, and other interferences with judicial independence. The United Nations (UN) Truth Commission similarly disappointed. Its report on the period of the coup government, 1991–1994, is practically unavailable. While it has been digitized, no one has posted it online, and it remains inaccessible for most Haitians. The latest UN mission is funding projects for Haitian civil society organizations to conduct research and document atrocities, as well as to digitize the reports that have been conducted over the years ( The report of the 1995 UN Truth Commission (la commission nationale de vérité et de justice in French) was effectively and inexplicably buried by Presidents Aristide and Préval (Quinn 2009). It is now available only in a handful of depositories, such as in the digital archive at Duke University. Moreover, most of the known copies of that report only have the first three annexes, but lack the fourth, which has the names of perpetrators connected to atrocities listed. The UN has the most detailed data on human rights violations in Haiti, based on the eight years of the UN International Civil Mission in Haiti MICIVIH (in French, and then the 15 years of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH in French,, and for the past two years, the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH in French, Although the vast majority of titles for MICIVEH and MINUSTAH’s human rights reports are listed online, the actual human rights reports are not available online or even upon request to the UN Depository libraries throughout the world. Indeed, it is not even possible to obtain freedom of information requests for these documents detailing investigations into all the human rights violations that were credibly alleged from February 1993 to 2000 for the combined UN-OAS International Civil Mission in Haiti (MICIVEH) and 2004–2017



for MINUSTAH and then, MINUJUSTH from 2017 to October 15, 2019.6 The return, arrest, and trial of Jean Claude Duvalier in 2011 led several Haitian NGOs to begin archiving digital records of Haiti’s mass atrocities and repression. With the loss of much of its educated and middle classes to exile, Haiti’s civic engagement has been limited to prolonged urban protests from 2018 through 2020. Nonetheless, for those seeking the truth, the denials by the state that anything ever happened are no longer credible. This is despite that those in power have always denied or ignored any allegations of mass atrocities through repeated lies; Haiti’s “predatory state” renders the prevalent denials and narratives of corruption to be true and/or self-fulfilling prophecies. Haiti now observes a National Day of Commemoration, April 26. Initially, only one NGO sponsored the event, but annual observation of the day has spread to many more schools and broader cross-section of events. In addition, there are regular meetings of victims’ families; online databases that offer accounts of some of those mass killings; and UN-sponsored-seminars designed to educate the population about its history of ignominious murders and lessons learned elsewhere to make the tragedies much less likely and to account for them when and if they do. In short, there exists an incipient social movement for memorialization that aspires to change current narratives of futility to framing an agenda for justice and ending impunity. So far, several of these social movement organizations have depicted images on the internet (sites discussed below) of the victims with details of what occurred to the extent that they might be known. However, most of the time, these NGOs have refrained from uploading the evidence of how they know what happened. Most who have spoken publicly have not done so without fear, evident in quivering voices of many speakers, such as the two sisters, Marguerite Clérié and Guylène Sales, who have organized Devoir de Memoire, Haiti (DDM— meaning “Duty of Remembrance” or “Memory’s Duty” in English7), when they spoke in the first UN-sponsored joint forum on memorialization in 2018. Indeed, there exists in Haiti a baffling degree of acceptance of impunity for perpetrators of violence and atrocities. The lack of outrage from family members of victims in Haiti is also disheartening. People express outrage in private, but never publicly take a stand, far less sue anyone. Even the politically prominent Benoit family, whose son was either killed or kidnapped, never sued from exile. The corruption and dysfunctionality of the



courts contributes to the overall silence, though not for lack of trying, until recently. Despite a countercurrent of nostalgia for the Duvalier dictatorship of 1957–1986, such as naming a library after Madame Max Adolphe, the head of the Macoutes, as well as naming cigars after Duvalier, DDM’s leadership has skillfully and bravely brought commemoration to Haiti. Jean-­ Philippe Belleau commented: Clérié and Sales are not “human rights entrepreneurs” or self-publicists, they do not have any political agenda, and are not looking for fame or funds. They are not really comfortable in their roles. To put it in anthropological terms, Clérié and Sales were not raised and socialized to have public roles but, instead, in this conservative culture, to be housewives. Their current, public roles were imposed upon them by the assassination of family members in the 1960s. In 1986, right after the fall of the regime, a group of six relatives of victims, including Clérié and Sales, created Komité Pa Bliyé (Not Forget Committee), the first organization of relatives of victims murdered by the dictatorship. It morphed into Memory’s Duty in 2013, the official founding of the organization. Clérié and Sales are the current leaders of this organization. In a national political context marked by a failed democratization and rule of law, Clérié and Sales have, over the past 33 years, overcome family reticence, public criticism, sexism, and lack of funding to create a prominent human rights organization. They faced a Sisyphean task but never gave up (Email correspondence to author).

The stories of roughly equivalent organizations in Argentina and other Latin American countries and Tunisia are more impressive compared to the hitherto meager efforts in resource-poor Haiti. Indeed, other than the UN sponsorship of one joint conference with Collectif contre l’Impunité, the DDM organization has received very little in funding, operating on a shoestring of private donations for each of its commemorations. Its Facebook postings do not cost money, and it currently represents the best available digital platform for Haiti’s atrocities (https://www.facebook. com/Devoir-de-Mémoire-Haïti-1535958076675972/). In Haiti, liberal NGOs focusing on memorialization of mass atrocities are often accused of being “unHaitian,” as nationalists have condemned similar efforts in the past. Nonetheless, getting the truth out should have been DDM’s biggest achievement. However, given the widespread paucity of internet access or reliable electricity, DDM’s reach is limited. Thus, contemporaneous reporting on atrocities has the potential to arouse anger



and mobilize the population, even the most impoverished. Social movement organizations largely narrowcast to friends that “like” the organizations but do not tweet or draw many to their websites, some of which in the meantime are no longer functioning or are not updated. Another, more recent atrocity was the November 2018 “La Saline Massacre”, which involved close to 100 murders (59 officially, per the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti 2019), where “between 25 and 71 people were killed by members of a criminal gang, with complicity with State actors” (UN Document S/2019/198 para. 38). A generally unrecognized factor is the huge underclasses in Haiti’s cities, many of whom are desperate migrants originally from the countryside inside their same countries, or who have migrated from one urban settlement to another. Haiti’s poorest sectors engaged in months of protests, but the outrage reflected mass starvation and official corruption, which was documented in a Parliamentary report on the embezzlement of Petro-Caribe funds. Haitian NGOs have been inspired by Latin American memorialization NGOs, such as Argentina’s Mothers and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo. These two affiliated NGOs identified their disappeared progeny, including babies after their mothers were murdered; held regular commemorations; digitized their photos; established public parks of memory and initiated successful prosecutions of hundreds of defendant (Carey 2012). Argentina’s models of memorialization involves an enticing and impressive array of museums, parks and prosecutions of literally thousands of perpetrators. However, it would be prohibitively expensive for Haiti to emulate Argentina, given the funds available at the moment. Some $7 million in frozen assets from Jean-Claude Duvalier’s estate is available in Switzerland, whose government would like to use the proceeds to support Haitian NGOs, but the Haitian governments have refused to allow those funds to be granted for projects outside the (corrupt) Haitian state’s control. Meanwhile, memorialization has not been a priority of official donors. The United States seems to only be interested in memorialization when discrediting the perpetrators coincides with attacking its perceived opponents. Generally, what the United States desires is to keep Haiti out of the news, preferring the status quo to any new alternative that is usually likely to be less stable. It is averse to the prospect of a wave of Haitian boat people (even though they have made for “model immigrants”), with the US Coast Guard violating “freedom of the Seas” or even invading the Haitian territorial sea to interdict their boats. The United States has



funded many NGOs, but never any that attempts to support memorialization against the crimes of US-supported leaders in Haiti and elsewhere.

Documenting and Digitizing Haiti’s Mass Atrocities Digital memorialization, through video testimony and commemoration records, has the potential to eventually change Haitian political culture from one of impunity to a culture of accountability and truth based on facts. In the pre-digital era, the only Truth Commission, sponsored by the UN, which focused on the 1991–1994 period of the coup regime against Aristide, remains off the internet. The main impulse for digitizing the crimes of the dictatorship began with the Duvalier Trial. The trial has gone nowhere in the past six years, as judges appeared to be afraid and/or compromised. The Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, led by Brian Concannon, joined the Collectif, DDM, and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), in Haiti to support their combined lawsuit against Jean-Claude Duvalier and this co-defendants. Recently, a UN Justice Mission has begun to fund seminars involving these three Haitian NGOs, plus Kay Fanm, which focuses on women’s rights, and FOKAL, the local NGO representing the Soros Foundation’s Open Society Institute. Yet, most Haitians are unaware or are too afraid to name the perpetrators of mass atrocities to these NGOs. Social media use is growing rapidly in Haiti because cellular phones have become accessible to much of the population—with a penetration of 20% imaginable in the next few years. Whereas in the past, the cost of video documentation was impossible, now with cellphone technology, it is available to everyone who owns a phone with video capability. With the shareability and durability of digital media, efforts at memorialization have acquired more staying power. Yet, the challenges of Haiti’s predatory state are immense. As per the title of Michel Rolf-Trouillot’s excellent book about Haiti, Haiti has always had a “state against the nation” (Trouillot 1990). The Macoute paramilitary and the attachés that were employed after the former’s legal abolition in 1986, after the fall of the Duvalier regime, became perpetrators of contract murders. The system of extortion and embezzlement that has emerged since then is subtle, but still draws on the Duvalierist tradition as it was established through the Macoute networks. The impunity that has been enjoyed by various Haitian governments also extends to the UN and the United States. Liberal peacekeeping and



peacebuilding by the United Nations, which ended its 15 years of missions in Haiti from 2004 to 2019, has a very mixed record: preventing coups and—even more importantly for the United States, which financed the mission—preventing migration to the United States. Yet the UN missions were also noted for sex trafficking and for introducing a cholera epidemic, which the UN denied until implicitly admitting its moral (though not legal) responsibility only in 2018. Established after Aristide was overthrown by force for the second time in 2004, The UN missions were established in 2004, soon after the United States had withdrawn Aristide’s US-provided, personal security force. MINUSTAH was technically a “stabilization force”, not a postwar peacekeeping mission to separate armies. Yet, the MINUSTAH military contingent fully engaged in support of full-­ scale, coordinated offensive action against the gangs in the large slum, Cité Soleil (US Institute of Peace). The UN later also demanded legal immunity for the civilians killed and wounded in the UN’s bombing of the huge slum neighborhood, Cité Soleil (City of the Sun).8 MINUSTAH left scores of civilians dead, but never acknowledged its series of civilians killed who were unconnected with the possibly targeted members in the slum. Just before Christmas in 2006, the UN’s Operation “New Forest” fired approximately 10,000 bullets over two days into Cité Soleil. Five Uruguayan Peacekeeping Troops were deported for raping a teenaged boy in Les Cayes: They were put on trial and then released in their home country When several Uruguayan troops serving under the UN in Haiti held down and gangraped a teenaged boy, and the event was documented on video, it spread over the internet. The crime sparked even more anti-UN protests in Haiti.

NGO Digitization Activities of Memorialization Two Haitian NGOs have taken the lead on documenting mass atrocities: the Collectif contre l’Impunité, which has an active Facebook page (, and Devoire de Memoire-Haiti. (émoireHaïti-1535958076675972/). Both have had unprecedented digital archives, though the more comprehensive archive of the Collectif disappeared from the internet since March 2018, around when its leader was disgraced by being named in the Petro Caribe report by the Haitian Parliament.



The Collectif contre l’Impunité is an umbrella organization of victims of Jean-Claude Duvalier, which has included the Ecumenical Center for Human Rights (CEDH), Kay Fanm, MOUFHED (the Movement of Haitian Women for Education and Development), and the National Network for the Defense of Human Rights (RNDDH). The Collective’s leadership included the late Dr. Nicole Magloire, who testified about Duvalier’s atrocities at the latter’s trial, and Michèle Montas, a former chief spokesperson for the UN Secretary General who is also the widow of assassinated journalist Jean Dominique. The digitization activities by the Collectif are available in abbreviated form on its Facebook page ( and on its Youtube channel ( Other videos on Haitian history are available on Facebook: https://www. and another important Haitian Youtube channel on memorialization featuring participants at a 2014 NGO-sponsored colloquium. ( Devoire de Mémoire—Haïti, is managed by the two sisters, aged 65 and 72, Guylène Salès et Maguy Clérié, daughters of Jean Bouchereau, who was ‘disappeared’ on April 26, 1963, with the indispensable help of his grand-daughter Isabelle Clérié, an English speaking anthropologist. DDM aims to collect documents from any government that might provide them. A lawyer, whose father was arrested by Baby Doc, has also volunteered to do much of the uploading of photos and other documentation to DDM’s Facebook page (https://www. Fti-1535958076675972/) and its website (https://www.devoirdememoire. ht/) as well as to archive material and continuing the scanning process. DDM successfully lobbied to deny Jean-­Claude Duvalier a state funeral (something that was also denied to the national hero of the Revolution, Jean-Jacques Dessalines). DDM has not had sufficient resources needed to plan to hold formal events in the United States, though expatriates in the diaspora have organized their reunions on their own initiative under the auspices of the ever-expanding DDM transnational network, advertising and organizing on Facebook. DDM has focused on education, advocacy, research, and litigation. Its simple but emotionally moving traveling poster boards featuring pictures of victims echo Argentina’s similar travelling shows. DDM has also published books in Kreyol for children, including The Cursed Alphabet (2018) about children under the Duvalier regime. DDM also gives weekly talks in high schools, reducing nominally student ignorance about



recent history. DDM also publishes articles in the newspaper of record, Le Nouvelliste, on past dictatorships and their crimes, as well as arguing for legal accountability for everyone. Most importantly, DDM’s public commemorations occur near where massacres occurred among survivors, with students and others participating. DDM’s website and Facebook page also offers digital databases with photos and testimonies, as well as some primary sources on past crimes. The organization advocates publication of the facts regarding those who perpetrated crimes against humanity, whether the perpetrators be retired military officers, paramilitary Macoutes, or other public officials, showing that the prevailing culture of silence does not have to occur. DDM has held and documented numerous conferences and commemorations, which are also available on its website. Haiti does have sites of memory–such as the Sans Souci Palace of Henri Christophe. The names of the dead do appear on a plaque, such as at the entrance of Jérémie, commemorating the dead of a cyclone in the 1950s. The Jérémie massacre memorial, photographed in Fig. 7.2, has emerged under the auspices of the Archbishop, has also been established to memorialize the victims of François Duvalier’s murders of 27 family members allegedly connected to the thirteen invaders of the Jeune Haiti insurgents, who landed by boat nearby in the Grand Anse in the southwest peninsula. The latter were all captured and executed without trial as well. Among DDM’s greatest achievements, according to interviews, have been (a) getting the truth out on the atrocities through commemoration activities, both the records and the events documented online; (b) insisting in a court lawsuit that Jean-Claude Duvalier be prosecuted for crimes against humanity, the first such indictment in Haitian history, and for which the Court of Cassation, the highest court in Haiti, held on appeal has no statute of limitations; (c) establishing a National Day of commemoration, April 26, which, though not an official day for the country, has grown in the number of commemoration and educational activities on that day; and (d) denying Jean-Claude Duvalier a state funeral. Unfortunately, the lawsuit led by the Collectif and Devoir de Memoire has stalled since these initial court victories. The government has also failed to investigate, and, where appropriate, prosecute the perpetrators identified in the National Commission on Truth and Justice report on the approximate 3000 murders committed between 1991 and 1994 under the civilian-led, military-backed coup government. While the Duvalier trial has stalled, Haiti’s highest Court of Cassation rules that there is no statute



of limitations for crimes against humanity. However, the government dropped the charges for crimes against humanity for some of the 3000 murders from 1991 to 1994. It reasoned that in the wake of the Raboteau trial, which was the most prominent from that same time period, victims and perpetrators had been living side by side in a relatively stable situation of social harmony, and resuming another trial would serve no purpose but to stir up memories of the past, and possibly further violence. Meanwhile, aside from the Collectif and DDM, several other social movement organizations are active in confronting the past, including: • MOUFEDH (Women’s Collective) • Bureau of International Lawyers (BAI), local office led by Mario Joseph of the BAI, which is affiliated with the Boston-based IJDH. • FOCAL, Soros Foundation led by former prime minister Michelle Pierre-Louis • IJDH, led by Brian Concannon, based in Boston, which collaborates with the BAI • Journalists Organization, led by Gary Delvas, which focused on the Jean Dominique assassination The Jean Claude Duvalier case was the subject of two orders by the investigating judge: the first, for embezzlement of public funds, was committed for trial on 27 January 2012. However; the second, for murder and similar crimes, was dismissed on statute of limitations grounds, but reversed on appeal, but came after Jean-Claude Duvalier’s death on October 4, 2014 with, so far, no fair and equitable reparations to any victims. The International Bureau of Lawyers (BIA, per its French abbreviation), headed by Mario Joseph in Haiti and Brian Concannon in Boston, has jointly endeavored to obtain reparations for the victims of the Duvalier dictatorship since the early 2000s. The BIA’s efforts are recorded digitally, though the effort had been stalled for four years as of 2020. Then-­ President Jean-Bertrand Aristide requested foreign and domestic assistance to obtain the frozen, Swiss Bank account of about $7 million of the then exiled Jean-Claude Duvalier. After Aristide himself was forcibly exiled in 2004, the succeeding transitional governments were uninterested in resuming Aristide’s quest to obtain the funds held by the Swiss government. Following the expiration of the post-Aristide transitional government, René Préval was elected president. Despite presiding over the



country during the 2010 earthquake and cholera outbreak, Préval and his administration did take an interest in pursuing the claim against Duvalier after President Préva allowed both Duvalier and Aristide to return to Haiti. (Préval and members of his government were from the generation of anti-dictatorship activists, whose mobilization into politics were identified with opposing that regime.) No judge was willing to sign off on the Swiss request for an official document requesting the funds.9 In order to protect the integrity of the process from unjust political interference, the Swiss government required that judges sign off on the requests for accounts like those of Baby Doc, where the government might prefer to obtain the funds and use it for its own purposes, whether corrupt or even in the public interest, but directly for the regime’s victims. Unfortunately, no judges in Haiti have been willing to sign off the form requesting the funds, out of fear for their lives, much as at least some of them would personally prefer that result. Those with arms and funds to hire killers are still present in Haiti. The BIA did decide to only represent the victims, as well as writing the appellate brief on the successful argument that crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations, while the Collectif pursued the criminal case against Duvalier and his codefendants. Following US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s interference in the first round of the presidential election in late 2010, which ultimately brought Michel Martelly to power, that regime was totally uninterested in pursuing the Duvalier reparations. His cabinet included children of Duvalier’s cabinet in its own cabinet and did not want to set a precedent of punishing those responsible for violent human rights violations. Martelly sought impunity, and in nominating Jovenel Moïse, who had no independent political base of his own, that Martelly assured himself that Moïse’s five years in office would keep him out of legal jeopardy until he could run for election again at the expiration of his successor’s term. Martelly and Moïse did little to memorialize the victims, other than agreeing to allowing Devoir de Memoire to celebrate a National Day of Remembrance; observing a moment of silence for the victims of the 2010 earthquake and another for the dozens of victims of the election violence at the Ruelle Valliant voting station on November 29, 1987. That latter atrocity was used as a pretext to cancel what could have been Haiti’s first free elections in its history, but the then-leader of the army, General Henri Namphey, did not want a democratic transition to proceed with the likely electoral victory by human rights lawyer Gerard Gourge (Haiti Libre November 30, 2013).



The movement for victims of the Duvalier regime is highly gendered, consisting mostly of mothers, daughters, and sisters. A few men follow. Also, the socioeconomic dimension of this movement skews toward elites, even though many Haitians have joined the memorials when they are offered the chance. The same is true with the racial divide. The public’s indifference to the victims of the Duvalier regime cannot be explained by the fact that many victims were mulattos, as most victims were in fact black. Instead, ongoing selective assassinations, as well as the memory of the larger atrocities of the Duvalier regime, have demobilized larger efforts at memorialization. These nascent efforts by DDM especially, as well as the lawsuit of the Collectif, are thus important first steps to establish a greater culture of accountability. Mass grave sites in Southeast Haiti, near the Dominican border, might make for important future sites of memory, such as the DDM commemoration in Thiotte, as shown in the photo in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1  Devoire de Memoire’s Commemoration of the July 1964 Massacres of Peasants in Southeast Haiti. (Credit: Devoire de Memoire—Haiti



Unfavorable Environment for Nongovernmental Actors Since memorialization in Haiti is largely left to the nongovernmental sector, the threats that sector faces on a daily basis must be recognized as a threat to the memorialization effort as a whole. Murders of political activists by government-allied individuals and organizations have been widespread in Haiti, though unsurprisingly the government has denied such allegations. Human rights activists and some members of parliament, for example, alleged that members of the Haitian National Police’s (HNP) Departmental Unit for Maintenance of Order (UDMO) killed Fanmi Lavalas activist Fritz Gerald Civil in April 2014. Following weeks of protests demanding potable water, electricity, and the reduction of tariffs in the port of Miragoâne, customs officials denied entry to an unidentified ship suspected of carrying weapons destined for persons associated with the Fanmi Lavalas party. On April 4, Civil led demonstrators to the port in protest. The HNP responded, arresting seven associates of Civil. Civil escaped but was later found dead near a public beach. Following Civil’s death, Lavalas sympathizers demanded the perpetrators’ arrest and prosecution; however, the local investigating magistrate did not find evidence of criminal activity. In August 2014, Judge Lamarre Belizaire issued two orders instructing the director general of the Immigration and Emigration Office to prohibit more than 30 members of the Aristide Foundation for Democracy and former officials of the Aristide administration, including former president Aristide, from leaving the country. The travel ban was seen as part of the continuing investigation into long-standing accusations of misuse of public funds and money laundering from illicit drug trafficking against members of the Aristide administration. In September 2014, Judge Belizaire issued an order placing former president Jean Betrand Aristide under house arrest pending investigation. Some human rights advocates described this action as unjust and without legal basis (www. lid=236696). Conditions for human rights workers are also generally poor. In 2015, Human rights defenders continue to face threats of violence. Malya Vilard Apolon, cofounder of Komisyon Fanm Viktim Pou Viktim (KOFAVIV), a women’s rights organization, left Haiti in March after repeated death threats, harassment, and the poisoning of her family dogs. Marie Eramithe Delva, KOFAVIV’s other cofounder, reported to police in May that she



received death threats by text message from a woman in police custody, and provided screenshots of the threats and phone number. To her knowledge, there was no further investigation into her claims, and she received no protection from police, prompting her to leave Haiti in June. In February 2015, Daniel Dorsinvil, the general coordinator for the Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations (POHDH), and his wife Girldy Lareche were killed while walking in a Port-au-Prince neighborhood near the POHDH offices. In the days after the murders, government officials claimed that the crime occurred during an armed robbery and was unrelated to Dorsinvil’s human rights activities or criticism of the government. This government claim was not substantiated by a thorough investigation, according to local civil society representatives. Pierre Espérance, executive director of the Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains (RNDDH), received a death threat in April accusing him of reporting false human rights claims in an effort to destabilize the government. The handwritten threat also included a bullet and stated, “this time you won’t escape,” referring to an incident in 1999 when Espérance was shot but survived ( Perhaps, the most positive step has been the establishment of a Jérémie Memorial, as shown in the photo in Fig. 2. The memorial to the victims of the Jérémie massacre was built in 1986, with money raised in New York among exiles. They channeled the funds to Mgr. Romulus, with a request to build a memorial. Romulus hired an engineer who used a bulldozer to “excavate” the place with the remains. They put whatever bones they found in the memorial they built, a few yards from the execution. When Jean-Philippe Belleau visited the memorial in 2010, he noted that it had deteriorated significantly. In 2014, the memorial was rebuilt. Both DDM and the new bishop, Mgr. Gontrand-Decoste, claim the “paternity” for funding the new memorial, which does not look fundamentally different from the old one.

Conclusion Although Papa Doc has a secure place in the pantheon of evil twentieth-­ century dictators, relatively little is known about his crimes. Certainly, when we compare Haiti to Latin American or European countries that have come through dictatorships, the documentary trail is very thin. Crucially, no Haitian associated with the Duvaliers’ rule has ever been



Fig. 2  Jeremie memorial to the 27 Mullato victims of the August 1964 Massacre. (Photo Credit: Jean-Philippe Belleau)

tried convicted for his or her crimes, and Jean-Claude Duvalier died before his prosecution ended. In a country like Haiti, where the masses have been vilified by the ruling elite since its 1804 independence, memorization has not been possible except through private oral traditions. There is precious little historical analysis by scholars, and much of the best work is done by foreign journalists and diasporic Haitians, unlike all the internal efforts in Argentina, but similar to Chile where exiled dissidents were able to escape and agitate from abroad. Truth and reconciliation processes can normally facilitate this process, especially if truth can be generated by testimony induced by amnesty offers. By contrast, Haiti has a very weak judiciary; so, an amnesty incentive is not meaningfully based on past experience of many successful prosecutions, and its few prosecutions were in absentia, which is permitted in civil law countries like Haiti. So, very few perpetrators have ever gone to prison.



Documentation, preferably to be digitized through looking at military and presidential archives and victims’ families witness testimonies, has been done by volunteers in these two organizations and the individuals with whom they have been in contact. These include not just civilians, but also military victims, whose officers were purged or murdered, such as the Benoit family. The education function is particularly relevant in Haiti. Haitian ignorance of its human rights history reflects the lack of teaching about this period. The official curriculum for the Haitian Baccalaureate Exam only covers through World War II history, with little material on the Duvalier dictatorship or the many governments of the past 25  years. Papa Doc’s reign of terror is not even mentioned. Not much historical analysis of how many people Papa and Baby Doc killed exists, in part because the paramilitary Macoutes exterminated in their own decentralized patterns. Only the major atrocities have the documentation. Haiti has rarely had any serious effort to combat impunity, or identify the culprits, or even to acknowledge horrible crime and state controls, let alone educate its students and the public about this aspect of its history. That is true of many countries, which does not make Haiti exceptional. In many ways, Haiti emerges from many of the same factors that produce atrocity and repression denial syndromes; Haiti just has more than its fair share of these negative factors. But at least some countries have strong enough civil societies that any efforts by the state to suppress information dialectically leads to efforts to investigate, report on, and counter or resist through grassroots or institutional actions. Those countries’ civil societies are able to educate the public, even if there is no official criminal investigation or private lawsuits for civil actions. There is a free enough press that at least part of the media is able to bring torture and murder to the public light. Their reports and investigations bring life to the truth about what has happened. Official acts of repression, or those by agents, independent gangsters, or terrorists, may not be stopped, but they may be exposed sooner or later, thanks the digitization of memorialization. Haiti, by contrast, has become a hyper-politicized state, the concept of Samuel Huntington (1968) where almost every private organization of activity has political identities and implications. Such societies are so polarized that compromise is extremely difficult. Human rights and memorialization NGOs like the Collectif and DDM are seen as partisan by many of the elite and very poor majority. One of the strengths of Devoire de Memoire and the Collectif is that they have not been involved in the



violence and mass protests in 2018 and 2019 demanding the resignation of Moise presidency. Yet, these memorialization organizations are deemed as anti-elitist by the five percent of the population that controls the economy and politics. The past two presidents, Martelly and Moise, have reluctantly allowed them to operate, but have done nothing serious for public education of the atrocities in Haitian history. As Duvalierist sympathizers, Martelly and Moise are quite content to encourage oblivion and de-­ memorialization and official impunity, while their agents selectively assassinate. The current younger generation knows so little of this history, or even of the selective assassinations perpetrated by these two recent presidents, nor by Aristide the progressive, who preceded them, for that matter. Given the age of those involved with Devoire de Memoire and the Collectif, it is imperative to continue their programs of educating the youth of Haiti in schools and in public events that continue to be recorded, at least on Facebook, and their websites.

Notes 1. In a sense, it is the opposite of today’s Germany, where the leader of the Alternative for Germany for Thuringia, Bjorn Hocke, denounced Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial and condemned the country’s “culture of remembrance” ( 2. There are few memorials in Haiti for the 200,000 killed in the 2010 earthquake. An outstanding digital archive of the audio-recorded stories of 100 survivors conducted in the summer and fall of 2010 Claire Payton, are available at 3. An online archive on the Jean-Claude Duvalier dictatorship has been compiled by Duke University, at jean-claude-duvalier-regime-1971-1986/ 4. The United States was often complicit or at least aware of these atrocities as the declassified cable traffic from the 1960s now make clear. (see Anne Fuller’s chapter on the Southeast massacres in Fatton and Carey, Unpublished Manuscript). The US FRAPH files on the Front for the Advancement of Haitian Progress were supposedly returned to Haiti but are unavailable, with its whereabouts unknown ( The United States, among its collaborations, clearly had Toto Constant and has protected him from extradition to Haiti for prosecution. 5. The best arguably is Haïti: Jamais, jamais plus!: Contribution à la mémoire collective et à la lutte contre l’impunité, 1986–1987 by the project, Atelier de Droits Humains of the nongovernmental organization CRESFED (Centre de Recherche et de Formation Économique et Sociale pour le Développement,



2000, Port-au-Prince), led by Gerard Pierre-Charles, in cooperation with the League of Haitian Former Political Prisoners (LAPPH) led by Bobby Duval, both of whom had been exiled until the 1986 end of the 29-year Duvalier dictatorship. 6. My request for a copy of the UN Truth Commission report reviewing violent human rights violations from 1991 to 1994 were not available at the UN headquarters library in New York. The most recent Secretary General’s report for MINUJUSTH has more public information than prior UN reports (UN Document S/2019/198). UN Security Council Resolution 2476 (2019) established the UN Integrated Office in Haiti, replacing the large stabilization missions of the previous fifteen years with a new configuration of 19 UN agencies based in Haiti. UN Security Council UN Security Council Resolution 2476 (2019) established the UN Integrated Office in Haiti, replacing the large stabilization missions of the previous fifteen years with a new configuration of 19 UN agencies based in Haiti (https://www. 7. The founding members were: Jacqueline Benoît, François Benoît, Marie Marguerite B.  Clérié, Guylene B.  Sales, Dominique Franck Simon, and Sylvie W. Bajeux. The Benoit siblings were survivors of Francois Duvalier’s attack on their brother, a military officer. 8. See the film produced by Professors Cahal McLaughlin (Queens University) and Siobhán Wills (Ulster University) a 50-minute documentary, It Stays With You: Use of Force by UN Peacekeepers in Haiti, which looks at the impact of raids and bombing from 2005 to 2007 on Cité Soleil, based on interviews filmed about a decade later with survivors and UN officials. 9. Following its own disgrace in failing to protect the Swiss accounts of Swiss Holocaust victims, as well as its role in laundering ill-gotten gain by corrupt rulers, the Swiss government began to freeze accounts of the undeserving and authorized them for the victims of those rulers.

Bibliography Belleau, Jean Philippe. Unpublished Manuscript. The Jérémie Massacre of Mulattos. In Structural Challenges Facing Haiti, ed. Robert Fatton and Henry F. Carey. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Carey, Henry F. 2012. Reaping What You Sow: A Comparative Examination of Torture Reform in the United States, France, Argentina, and Israel. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger. Feldman, Joseph P. 2018, March 29. Review Essay: The Politics of Memorialization and War. Political and Legal Anthropology Review. Available at: Accessed 3 Feb 2020.



FIDH. 2018, December 1. The Events in La Saline: From Power Struggle Between Armed Gangs to State-Sanctioned Massacre. Available at: content/uploads/2018/12/10-Rap-La-Saline-1Dec2018-Ang1.pdf Fuller, Anne F. 2019, February 12. A Young Duvalier and Haiti’s Unremembered Past. NACLA.  Available at: haiti%E2%80%99s-unremembered-past-available-french ———. Unpublished Manuscript. A Young Duvalier, Haiti’s Unremembered Past, and a Plea for More and Better Research. In Fatton and Carey. Gaffield, Julia, 2019. Draft Book Prospectus (Draft): Jean-Jacques Dessalines: Freedom or Death, book under contract with Yale University Press. Gigliotti, Simone. 2014. The Memorialization of Genocide. Journal of Genocide Research 16 (4): 421–422. Government of Haiti. Second Periodic Report Submitted by Haiti Under Article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, April 24, 2019, UN Document CCPR/C/HTI/2. Haiti Libre. 2013, November 30. Haïti – Social: Pour Martelly, la ruelle Vaillant est un devoir de mémoire. Available at: html. Accessed 3 Feb 2020. Hemmingson, Michael. 2009, May. Anthropology of the Memorial: Observations and Reflections on American Cultural Rituals Associated with Death. Forum: Qualitative Social Research 10(3): Art. 6. Huntington, Samuel P. 1968. Political Order in Changing Societies. New Haven: Yale University Press. Jinks, Rebecca. 2014. Thinking Comparatively About Genocide Memorialization. Journal of Genocide Research 16 (4): 423–440. McLaughlin, Cahal and Siobhán Wills. It Stays with You. Film. https://vimeo. com/258696536 Osson, Gabriel. 2020. Le Jour se Lèvera. Ottawa: Les Editions David. Pearson, Edward A., ed. 1999. Designs Against Charleston: The Trial Record of the Denmark Slave Conspiracy of 1822. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. Quinn, Joanna R. 2009. Haiti’s Failed Truth Commission: Lessons in Transitional Justice. Journal of Human Rights 8 (3): 265–281. Rasmussen, Daniel. 2011. American Uprising: The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt. New York: Harper Perennial. Rubio, Philip F. January 2012. Examining the White Men Convicted of Supporting the 1822 Denmark Vesey Slave Insurrection Conspiracy. The South Carolina Historical Magazine 113 (1): 50–67. Strobel, Warren. 1996. The Media and U.S.  Policies Toward Intervention. In Managing Global Chaos, ed. Chester Crocker and Fen Osler Hampson with Pamela Aall. Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace Press, Ch. 25.



Thrasher, Albert, ed. 1996. On to New Orleans! Louisiana’s Heroic 1811 Slave Revolt. 2nd ed. New Orleans: Cypress Press. Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. 1990. Haiti: State Against Nation: The Origins and Legacy of Duvalierism. New York: Monthly Review Press. Turits, Richard Lee. 2002, August. A World Destroyed, A Nation Imposed: The 1937 Haitian Massacre in the Dominican Republic. Hispanic American Historical Review 82 (3): 589–635. United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti. 2019, July 9. UN Document S/2019/563. Available at: Accessed 3 Feb 2020. US Institute of Peace (David Beer). Special Report on “Gangs of Cite Soleil”. Accessed 3 Feb 2020. White, Geoffrey. 2017. Violent Memories, Memory Violence. Reviews in Anthropology 46 (1): 19–34. Wills, Siobhán and Cahal McLaughlin. 2017, October 13. Sent to Haiti to Keep the Peace, Departing UN Troops Leave a Damaged Nation in Their Wake. The Conversation. Available at: Accessed 3 Feb 2020.

“Rebuilding the Jigsaw of Memory”: The Discourse of Portuguese Colonial War Veterans’ Blogs Verónica Ferreira

Introduction Every year for the last nine years, a group of 100 to 200 men aged between 60 and 80, accompanied by their families, have met up in a hotel in the Portuguese spa town of Monte Real for a lunch reunion.1 These men have in common a colonial war and a blog. The war waged between the Portuguese state and African national liberation movements (1961–1974/75) ended over 40 years ago but is still remembered today by these men and by thousands of other ex-­combatants who are willing to share their war memories in the public space through an online blog, called Luís Graça e Camaradas da Guiné [Luís Graça and the Guinea Comrades]. The blog was created in 2004 by its namesake, Luís Graça, a former combatant and sociology professor,  and it is the

V. Ferreira (*) Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 E. M. Zucker, D. J. Simon (eds.), Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




largest Portuguese blog maintained by men who fought in the theater of operations of Guinea, today Guinea-Bissau.2 This chapter begins with the preliminary results of a broader netnographic investigation (Kozinets 2010, see also Hine 2015). These first reflections are based on personal in-depth interviews and a critical discourse analysis of the Luís Graça blog, with the aim of exploring its dynamics and the collective narratives that are developed within it. Focusing exclusively on the memories constructed by the men that fought on the side of the Portuguese Armed Forces, attention will be given to the ways in which these men construct a community of memories and to how colonial relations are revealed in their narratives and visual representations, e.g.,  digital photographs. Through this process, these mnemonic representations leave the circumscribed realm of individual memories to become collectivized, forming archives of vernacular memories (Bodnar 1994) shared by these ex-combatants. Finally, consideration will be given to how this process has contributed to increase our understanding of the memory and the public silence that still surrounds the conflict (Martins 2016, 305).3

Colonial War: The Mists of Memory The Colonial Wars, fought between Portugal and the liberation movements, represented for the Portuguese state the beginning of decolonization and the end of its empire in Africa. As in other decolonization contexts (e.g. the war in Algeria, cf. Stora 2005), the lack of public memory of the war derives from the difficulty in reconciling the colonial past. In Portugal, this difficulty is exacerbated by the ideological and military context that preceded and which gave rise to the 25 April 1974  military  coup and following revolution. As Miguel Cardina (2016, 68) explains, even during the war, there was a process of silencing the conflict on the part of the Portuguese dictatorial regime—the Estado Novo (1933–1974), led by Oliveira Salazar (1933–1968) and later  Marcello Caetano (1968–1974). According to official rhetoric, the war in the colonies never existed. The dispatch of thousands of men to the African territories was justified as policing and anti-terrorism operations. The regime fueled the nationalist fervor of the people in defense of the integrity of the so-called “overseas territories” by disseminating propaganda photographs of the massacre of white farmers and black workers by members of the Union of Angolan Peoples (UPA) in



1961  in northern Angola. Jorge Cabral, one of the war veterans and a member of the blog that I interviewed, commented ironically: Portugal was never at war. I remember being in the middle of Guinea, right in the middle of Guinea, and hearing Marcello Caetano on the radio – when Salazar died, I was already in Guinea  – declaring that there was no war. There were some small skirmishes on the border. There was no war, there was no war. The soldiers… the wounded were hidden from view.

On 25 April 1974, after 13 years of war, the regime continued to present itself ideologically as a pluricontinental4 and multiracial nation, refusing to grant independence to the colonies and threatening to prolong the conflict indefinitely. So, realizing that it would only be possible to put an end to the war by overthrowing the regime, a group of officers that had taken part in the Colonial War (mostly in the theater of operations of Guinea-Bissau) launched a military coup that gave rise to the revolution. However, those same soldiers, as the new power, “[…] decree[d], right away on 10th May 1974, ‘an amnesty for the essentially military crimes practiced up until 25th April’ [sic] […]” (Ribeiro 1999, 142), further restricting the possibility of any debate about war crimes committed during the conflict. In the two decades that followed, between 1980 and the middle of the 1990s, the national media agenda was taken over by the process of consolidating a liberal democracy. Formal entry to the European community in 1986 and the desire to create a space of Portuguese influence in the ex-colonies, based on the notion of Lusophony, helped revitalize the Luso-tropicalist narrative (cf. de Almeida 2004; Cardão 2014; Peralta 2017, 26–64) about the exceptionality of the Portuguese contact in the world (Peralta 2017, 27; 59–60; see also Loff 2014), as a pioneer of the “discoveries,”5 an ideology already deep-rooted in the country thanks to the propaganda actions of the Estado Novo. This revitalization meant that the anti-colonial basis of the revolution was forgotten. To use a concept by Jay Winter (2010, 5), it was a strategic silence that led to the whitewashing of the colonial past, particularly the violence and racism. This silence was then countered by the creation of a linguistic community between “brother countries,” the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (Comunidade de Países de Língua Portuguesa, CPLP), in the image of the International Organization of Francophony (Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, OIF).



This lack of public memory of the war contrasts with the excess of personal memory (Ribeiro 2007, 45). For many years, the former combatants kept memories of their experiences in Africa to themselves or shared them only with a small private circle. In a way, the public silence both reinforced and was reinforced by the silence of the former combatants outside intimate circles. As Ângela Campos points out (2017, 168; see also Bourke 2006, 35), the public silence may have discouraged the ex-combatants from speaking about the war by reinforcing feelings of shame and guilt. And there is indeed a “relationship between memory and guilt – for colonialism, for persecutions and massacres. […] because the dialectics between memory and silence in this continent [Europe] cannot avoid colonialism, totalitarisms and wars, and their sites within and outside Europe” (Passerini 2003, 250). Along the same lines, the social anthropologist Paul Connerton (2011, 46) speaks of a humiliated silence, “[…] the collusive silence brought on by a particular kind of collective shame there is detectable both a desire to forget and sometimes the actual effect of forgetting,” an assertion reinforced by Jorge Cabral: “There are people that forgot so completely that they never mentioned that they had been in the war.” However, by the 1990s, a confluence of factors started to facilitate the creation and sharing of vernacular memories of the war (Cardina 2016, 69–70). Vernacular memories are here understood in accordance with the concept developed by Emily Keightley and Michael Pickering (2015, 9–12, 15, from Bodnar 1994, 14) as spaces of creation established in the interstices of individual and popular memories, serving to connect them. It is in these memories that the individual and popular memories are appropriated and creatively reinterpreted, through mnemonic imagination, to be transmitted within a community, establishing or strengthening bonds to unite its members. Among other factors, the last decade of the past millennium witnessed the launch of a new phase in which the figure of the combatant was rehabilitated and commemorated through the construction of monuments in the public space, such as the Monument to the Combatants of Overseas [Monumento aos Combatentes do Ultramar], built in 1994  in Belém, Lisbon, and the organization of veterans’ meetings across the whole country. In addition, following the formal recognition of posttraumatic stress disorder in 1999 (Law No. 46/99, of 16 June), new associations were created to support veterans suffering from this condition, such as APOIAR and the Portuguese War Veterans Association (APVG).



As Joanna Bourke suggests in the context of the war in Vietnam, from this period onward there was an attempt, on the part of the war veterans, to give meaning to the violence experienced and committed: “to survive being a perpetrator may not be a matter of either ‘forgetting’ or ‘remembering’, but of finding a legitimate narrative that is both coherent and convincing” (Bourke 2006, 36). Underlying this is the idea that the ex-­ combatants were young men who had been compelled by the regime, through conscription, to fight in a war that they had not chosen and in which they suffered. It is a narrative of victimization as a reaction and response to what some consider an unjust condemnation in the postrevolutionary period, and the failure of the state to fulfill its obligations to provide economic and social protection. For Jorge Cabral, “they truly transformed the combatants into mass murderers, rapists. This is still with us today to some extent.”

The Virtualized Memory of War The democratization of internet access in Portugal at the end of the 1990s and beginning of the 2000s, for its part, enabled an individual discursive authority based on the experience of war (a tendency that had already been made possible with the publication of memoirs in authors’ own editions or by small publishers)6 and the possibility of connecting comrades that were geographically distant. The digital creation of these memories may be attributed to various factors. For instance, many former combatants were now reaching retirement age, a time when people often go through what is called a life review process, and the awareness of approaching death, associated with the need to transmit their testimony to future generations, may have impelled these men to tell their stories: […] Who was it for? I usually say, ‘we have a duty to leave our testimony’. People can pick it up or not, as they see fit. What they can’t do is to say they didn’t know. From the moment you write and put it down, it’s at their disposal. If they read it, if they assimilate it and take some initiative as a result of it or not, that’s their business. For now, our duty is done. (Interview with Hélder Sousa) […] I had always promised myself that one day, when I retired, I would tell it all […]. (Interview with Mário Beja Santos)



The internet is thus another potential space of enunciation for ex-­ combatants, with the advantage that its platforms are easy to access and allow the inscription in the public space of narratives that have no visibility in official discourse nor in traditional Portuguese media. Web 2.0 is particularly praised for offering greater agency to users since, among other things, it enables the creation and sharing of content by and between users (cf. Castells 2007, 257–258; Merrin 2014, 52, 78). Most obviously whereas the broadcast era was dominated by professional products, the digital era has seen the expansion of personally produced content, an empowerment of individual creation that represents an epochal transformation of the structures of media communication. All professional content now exists in a competitive relationship with the individual’s own content and peer-produced information. (Merrin 2014, 52)

Situated on the initial threshold of connectivity (van Dijck 2013), blogs saw an explosion in use and content production during the first years of the second millennium. Even though they were precarious and subject to rapid obsolescence (Taylor 2010) like other online platforms, they were one of the first virtual platforms to be used in a generalized way by ex-­ combatants to share memories of the war. Some of these blogs migrated to new micro-blogging platforms, such as Facebook, while others were discontinued for various reasons or were simply lost through their inaccessibility via search engines like Google. However, it is still possible to access many of these contents. Those that are still functioning continue to be mnemonic archives and sites where veterans converge, forming what Jodi Dean (2010, 96; 113–119) calls affective networks of mnemonic creation. The blogs allow the user’s subjective experience to be synchronized with that of others. This is, in short, a place of immediate exchange for veteran communities (van Dijck 2007, 72): most Web 2.0 platforms started out as indeterminate services for the exchange of communicative or creative content among friends. These services often emanated from community-bound initiatives […] who adopted a specific niche of online interactions and developed mediated routine practice. (van Dijck 2013, 6)



The importance of these platforms extends to the influence they exert via hypertext7 and cross-referencing on other platforms. One example is the great impact that these ex-combatants have had on the formation of narratives on Portuguese Wikipedia. This transit was formed from the sharing of narratives and visual representations, such as photographs, remediated from preexisting analogue mnemonic objects (van Dijck 2007; Hirsch 2012) virtualized and shared on the blog (cf. Bolter and Grusin 2000; van Dijck 2007, 70). Thus, the memory is (re)constructed from dispersed fragments, whether objects that have been digitalized or disordered memories that converge to become collectivized narratives. With the digitalization and sharing of these objects, this material connection with the past is no longer restricted to the private space of family archives but expands its reach, entering or enabling their entry into the social representations of war. Nevertheless, as all the contents of a blog are editable, the memory created is not a stable object, but has the capacity to become associated with dynamic processes and chains of interaction between platforms and nonvirtual spaces (Bond et al. 2017, 14). Whereas the personal writing and production of memory (scrapbooks, diaries, photographic albums, etc.) of the past were intended for limited consumption, mediatisation has delivered a new self-centred (an immediate) public or semi-public and semi-private, documentation and correspondence, in other words a social network memory. (Hoskins, “Mediatisation of Memory” 30 apud Bond et al. 2017, 14–15)

As described in the next section, the blog is also an affective network whose aim seems to be to claim a space of public enunciation with great visibility and ease of access. In this space, ex-combatants can jointly construct an archive of shared experiences, which, though short-lived (most were there only for two years), tend to occupy a significant part, if not all, of their memories (e.g.,  Batista 2016). José van Dijck (2007, 56–61) explains that personal memories are formed affectively; meaning, the discourses of others play an important role in personal construction of past experiences and consequently on indiviual identities. It is in this inter-­ affective exchange that the narratives about the Colonial War are constructed in the Blogipelago (Dean 2010: 38).8 Though blogs have much in common with diary writing, they differ, among other things,9 in that blogs amplify the relations and dynamics existing in personal diaries. They have a greater visibility spectrum and



allow the immediate construction of forums for discussion and sharing. Access to blogs is free,10 available on any device with an internet connection. Similarly, collaborative writing and the entry-commentary format of blogs set up dynamics between ex-combatants, whether conflictual or not. To analyze these dynamics, I employ the netnography method (cf. Kozinets 2010), which allows me to study the online sociability inherent to the construction of a mnemonic community within a blog. Based on the ethnographic framework of participant-observation, I undertook a preliminary discourse analysis to explore the meaning-making of the memory narratives constructed by the war veterans and carried out several contacts and personal interviews with the permanent members of Luís Graça blog. In both processes, the basis for this chapter were the field notes taken during the research. As individuals select and share personal information on digital platforms, war veterans are also constructing and presenting part of their personal identity, projecting it to other users. In addition, digital performativity is also an element in the formation of communities of belonging, such as these groups sharing memories of the Colonial War (Kozinets 2010, 1–2). Both dimensions are explored in the following sections. In blogs, various discourses are present simultaneously because “the past is as diverse as the people that remember it” (Antunes 2015, 19). This implies not essentializing or reifying veterans’  identities. Knowing  the context in which their narratives were and are developed, and the possible intentions or motives of each person in enunciating them is fundamental for understanding the digital discourses of men that fought in the war. As Enzo Traverso (2016, 56) says, with regard to the importance of the broader social context: Far from being immutable or frozen, memory changes permanently and transcends the recollections of a lived experience. Cultural practices, cultural industry, public policies, and even laws (sometimes penal laws) hugely shape and transform our representation of the past.

These men’s narratives give meaning to a youth that was lost fighting for an ideal of nation that was unsuccessful (cf. Ribeiro 2007, 53; Ribeiro and Vecchi 2012, 29). They also allow the war veterans an opportunity to reclaim a public space where they can demand their rights as citizens whose lives and bodies were marked by the violence of a war they did not choose, but in which they participated.



Finally, these vernacular memories should be understood on a continuum that connects physical localizations and face-to-face interactions with digital communities, and therefore it is important to analyze the social dynamics outside of the online blogs.

“(Re)constructing the Jigsaw of Memory”: War Veterans in the Blogipelago The blog Luís Graça and Guinea Comrades presents itself as “the biggest social network in Portuguese about the experience of this war.” Composed and edited by veterans that had fought in Guinea-Bissau between 1963 and 1975 on the colonial side, the term “social network” is quite accurate in the sense that they “promote interpersonal contact, whether between individual or groups” (van Dijck 2013, 8). The description emphasizes the community dimension of the platform, whose objective is “to help ex-­ combatants reconstruct the jigsaw puzzle of memory.”11 Thus, with the aim of reuniting the various collaborators in a mnemonic exercise, the blog is constituted as a platform for contact between veterans with around 700 more or less active members from various points of the country. It was launched in April 2004 by Luís Graça: Basically, the idea is this (…) we are a generation that (…) is using up its average life expectancy, aren’t we? Seventy or so years, men (…) that think that history has been mistold aren’t we? So, in some way, yes, we all want to tell our own petit histoire, don’t we? Deep down, we just want to tell our little story, the day-to-day…. We talk about everything without taboo. From sexuality, deserters, the lies in the reports, the incompetence of officers. All that has been discussed. Food, heroes (…). A frank conversation, especially the concern that I’ve had of rescuing the letters that the men wrote from the war, before they disappear, before they end up in the flea market or rubbish bin.12

The ex-combatants join in the blog’s construction to contribute to the formation of a collective narrative derived from the fragments of their individual memories. As Luís Graça puts it, “Many of us have different versions of the same event, I mean, one saw one thing, another saw something else. This is a jigsaw puzzle that we are putting together.” The conversations I had with these men during the course of the research have revealed that the multiplicity of ex-combatant narratives is the result of



different experiences as well as appropriations and recontextualizations of one another’s narratives. That is to say, they are the product of an intersubjective exercise influenced by the relational dynamics established between comrades, in their reunions and associations, molded by past experiences and the socioeconomic needs of the moment. The blog is today (I have no doubts) the best archive of genuine images taken by participants. Photographs operations, photographs places, photographs of civilians, photographs of soldiers, scenes of people socializing, and of the war itself. And afterwards, the repository of memories, memories that have to do with testimony, tales, narratives, interventions about a […] text that was written for or against, with ideological aspects. And so, the blog is a horizontal line where just about everything fits. (Interview with Mário Beja Santos)

The various entries are not organized chronologically or according to a specific format. The blog’s archives contain poems, photographs, descriptions of episodes from the war, memorials to the dead, announcements of social events, critiques of the lack of state support and recognition, or position statements in controversies related to different ways of representing or commemorating the Colonial War in the present. There is, in short, a process of co-historicity (Svetlana Boym 2010 apud Pogačar 2018, 40), in which the ex-combatants cooperate, using media devices, in the representation of the past. Past events are here decontextualized and transformed into individual affective narratives followed by the community (Pogačar 2018: 40). Consequently, as van Dijck put it, blogs are tools of personal bonding and identity formation. They connect the past, present, and future by constructing a personal identity from a subjectivity constituted through language and intersubjective exchange between various people. In this process, memory merges with imagination (van Dijck 2007, 55; Keightley and Pickering 2015). Moreover, in this context of the Colonial War, personal legitimation is an important element of the narratives composed by ex-combatants. In fact, these men, having lived and fought during the colonial and dictatorial regime of the Estado Novo, can therefore be seen as embodying the colonial relations and racial hierarchy predominant during that time. Even those that consciously broke with that ideological framework feel the need to construct a narrative that enables them to incorporate a past where they fought on the side of the Portuguese colonial forces—that is, to say, on



“the wrong side of history.” This is a process of composure (Thomson 2015), in other words, a process of building a narrative that follows the expectations and needs of life history cohesion and acceptability that war veterans long for (see also, Dean 2010: 50–53, for a critical perspective on self-writing as a technology of the self deeply connected with a community). Given the lack of a national narrative to frame them, the individual discourses of ex-combatants vary between the relative depoliticization of the conflict (fixing the narrative in tactic-military narratives or underlining their action in the name of ideals such as the fatherland) and indignation at the waste of a youth spent in a useless war that the regime forced them to fight. The conclusion I reached was: ‘but the war is worse now.’ This was [19]70, ‘71, ‘72. It was worse in ‘72 than in ‘70 and I asked myself: ‘what have I come here to do if it’s worse?’ (Interview with Inácio Silva)

Reading the entries published on the blog,  there are expressions of hope that their participation will promote the writing of a history of the Colonial War by historians. An “objective” and “factual” history. Indeed, some of them believe that it is too soon for History to be written, because only temporal distancing will bring political neutrality: […] the blog, at this moment, is an extremely valid source. (Interview with José Martins) […] there are many things [in the blog] that could also be used for research, tomorrow (…).13 So that scholars can study it, though it’s still early days. It’s still early. I think that it’s still too soon […] a few more years need to go by. It’s still early to study the whole matter of the colonial war in any depth. But in ten years, twenty years’ time perhaps. (Interview with Jorge Cabral)

A good example of this commitment to facts and, perhaps, a certain aversion to the fallible mechanisms of memory, is the refusal of one of the blog editors to be interviewed on the grounds that this type of conversation always involves failed expectations, as memory is permeable to the passage of the years, which results in “historical imprecisions.” On the other hand, the blog also has a cathartic dimension for veterans, which they call blogotherapy. For many, it is this dimension that moves them. In one way or another, the blog emerged, said Mário Beja Santos



(in interview), “because of a cathartic need of Luís Graça.” Luís Graça himself, in a report of 22 April 2010, claims: We are a kind of self-help group. We usually speak of ‘blogotherapy of the war in Africa’ […]. There is a therapeutic effect […]. Many people who live in isolation, alone with their ghosts and memories, with no connections, no social support, they start socializing and verbalizing their memories, then they start putting it down on paper. And we publish them.14

These two dimensions are not mutually exclusive. For José Martins, for example, it was the need to understand the conflict and therefore his interest in history, which enabled him to initiate his cathartic process, a relation that can be explained by the creation of a distancing that allows the ex-­ combatants to deal with their experiences. Through a process of objectivization, they are able to relativize their war traumas. When military service ended, I said ‘this is over’, but no, it had only just begun. And I started to get post-traumatic stress, though no one recognized it as such, so I had only one thing to do: get involved and begin to discover what had happened to begin to do catharsis. (Interview with José Martins)

The blog has a therapeutic effect by enabling externalization and contact with the experiences of others. It has two distinct aspects. The first is related to the writing process: it is through the (re)creation of memories that these men confront the wounds of the past and the silences in which their war memories were sealed when they were readapting to civilian life (“This Tabanca has the particularity of healing wounds that no one else wanted to treat”).15 The second concerns the contact that is established between comrades, a contact that occurs in the blog, but is also extended in the various reunions and social events that are organized throughout the year, all around the country.

The Tabancas16 The reunions are the most visible aspect of the transit between the digital and physical worlds. They are, basically, the physical manifestation of communities of belonging and shared memory which take place all over the country, culminating in the great annual national event in Monte Real.



Everything’s discussed in our reunions, there are no traumas there. I think the most traumatized men don’t even turn up to the reunions… […] I think that it’s been good for the chaps that were in the wars, because it gives them a chance to externalize all the stuff that’s bottled up inside, doesn’t it? Because it’s a thing that a guy’s telling, if he notices that the person is bothered by it, that he’s not [liking it], he would have to be stupid to continue to massacre the poor chap. We have to speak to someone that accepts the conversation, don’t we? Or at least, someone that’s minimally interested, or else it’s better to shut up. (Interview with Eduardo Ribeiro)

In the words of Judith Butler (2009, 36), these are communities that have been formed in opposition to the “other” (in this case, anyone that has not been through the experience of war). The veterans can only find this community of affect and mutual comprehension together with each other. In other contexts, they tend to feel that they have been treated with ingratitude or forgotten about, and that their experiences  are not recognized. Even because I think that it’s the best therapy for whoever was Overseas […] there’s no psychiatry that will treat it […] give a guy half a dozen tablets so that he falls asleep on his feet. What can he do? He was never in combat […] he could never put himself in his place […] to know what he’s been through. He might have an idea of what he went through but going through it really – the only person who can do that is someone that has felt it in his skin. (Interview with Eduardo Ribeiro) Now, I doubt that people understand what the war was. In war, like in love, you can’t understand it without having been through it. It’s really impossible to describe what the war was like. The effects of the war, the women in the war, the women that stayed here. The alcoholism that took hold. The post-traumatic stress. The domestic violence that is also very connected. (Interview with Jorge Cabral)

This feeling of belonging influences the capacity and direction of affect of the members, as the members sympathize with and take responsibility for one another’s suffering (Butler 2009, 36/46). The feeling of community is anchored in shared experiences; the war is considered to be unintelligible for those that have not experienced it, thus forming an essentialist silence (Winter 2010, 6).



[There’s] a lot of informative importance. Now people understand what the war was through the blog… ah, I hesitate, I hesitate, I put hesitation marks, don’t I? Now it serves as a connection serves as a connecting link, this yes. Mainly for people that are more fragile. ‘It wasn’t just me that suffered’. It makes them happier, doesn’t it? When there are various people suffering, people are happier, ‘ah, after all, it wasn’t just me’. (Interview with Jorge Cabral)

In the words of Luís Graça, it is a “[…] blog where everyone addresses each other informally [todos se tratam por tu], and there are no military hierarchies.” The motto that Luís Graça associates with the blog is also quite indicative of the idea that those who experienced the war cannot let others tell their story for them. This sense of community is expressed most insistently in what they consider to be a lack of state support for the combatants in the most vulnerable situations, a group that includes the Guinean soldiers enlisted into the Portuguese Armed Forces. This position explains the camaraderie and companionship that the ex-combatants from the Guinea theater of operations demonstrate toward their Guinean counterparts, despite the structural racism prevailing in Portuguese society. There are still a lot of people. With stress, there are still a lot of people. Still today, some say, they can’t hear a noise […] there are still a lot of people. This was never treated. It never was, they didn’t care […] these people were completely abandoned, got rid of […] Another thing I really cannot excuse is what they did to the African soldiers. For me, it was a horrible crime. How they abandoned them. Those poor sods swore to the flag, said they were Portuguese and then they were abandoned…. shot down […]. (interview with Jorge Cabral)

In some of the entries, this solidarity with the Guinean colleagues shot in the aftermath of independence is clearly visible. Quoting only some examples, on October 31, 2010, a text was published, entitled “Guiné 63/74 – P7198: O Soldado Africano Esquecido/Forgotten African Soldier (1): What can we do for our former Guinean colleagues? (Carlos S ­ ilva/ Luís Graça/Paulo Santiago)” (Fig. 1.). In another text, Armandino Alves claims (06/12/2009): one thing is certain, we Portuguese, patriots and exempt (politically speaking) cannot hide away; it was the obligation of the overseeing body and the Portuguese Army to offer ALL those called up to provide COMPULSORY military service and who swore loyalty and fidelity to the national flag the chance to flee certain death!!17



Fig. 1  Print screen of the publication “Guiné 63/74  – P7198: O Soldado Africano Esquecido/Forgotten African Soldier (1): What can we do for our former Guinean colleagues? (Carlos Silva/Luís Graça/Paulo Santiago),” available at

Despite a certain condescension, there is a close relationship between members of the blog and the population of Guinea-Bissau. This is not only because of the relations that were established with the African soldiers following the Africanization of the war—the mass mobilization of



Africans to counter the scarcity of men from the metropole—but also because of the relations that were forged with the population at large. The relation with the Guinean populations was maintained, in many cases, in the form of humanitarian aid, leisure trips or nostalgia tourism, and close relations with Guinean children adopted by Portuguese soldiers from the metropole. The photographs of people and landscapes taken during the war and nowadays are a constant feature of the blog.

Fragments of Memory: Narratives and Visual Representations on the Blog The digitalization and sharing of photographs play an important role in the task of creating a vernacular narrative about the war, because, in a context in which the violence of war is silenced, the photographs represent material proof of its existence. For although the photographs of the blog are mostly of banal scenes—day-to-day scenes, as Filipa Lowndes Vicente puts it in a work about colonial war photography, “soldiers resting, eating, smiling, enjoying themselves and posing for photographs” (2017, 204)— the constant reminder of the context in which they were taken leads towards what is absent, the war itself (Paulo de Medeiros apud Antunes 2017b, 220). As mentioned above, this material connection to the past thus ceases to be the exclusive property of the private space of family archives and extends its reach, entering, or enabling the entry of these pictures into the social representations of the Colonial War. Of the various themes recurring in the blog, I highlight two. The first concerns the celebration of the combatants. Here, the photographs give a face to the number of mobilized, dead, and crippled men. They humanize and subjectivize memory by binding the experience of war to specific individuals rather than to abstract numbers. These entries include reconstructions of episodes experienced and the memory of fallen comrades. The reconstruction of episodes is accompanied by photographs often taken by the person writing the entry. They show, above all, everyday scenes of the soldiers’ lives. However, despite this banality, there is an “invitation to interpret what they show and what they conceal” (Antunes 2017b, 223). There are a lot of photographs. Some people took a lot. […] There are people who really have a lot, truly a lot, and they appear there. In the blog, it becomes really like a document. (Interview with Eduardo Ribeiro)



The second is related to the colonial dimension of the narratives and visual representations. For this, I focus specifically on the soldiers’ representation of Guinean women, and the relationship that they describe as having had with them. In both, the relations of domination intrinsic to Portuguese colonization are clearly visible. It is worth noting that these racial hierarchies are not restricted to the relations they had with women, but they are easily discerned in the photographic representation of the bodies of Guinean women and the narratives that accompany them. On this point, I agree with Catarina Martins’s analysis of the relationship between colonialism and the black female body, particularly its use as a concrete and rhetorical instrument for the exercise of material and symbolic power by the white man (2019, 1). Of the dozens of publications in which the theme of the female nude is central, I shall explore only two. The first is entitled “Guiné 63/74 – P1475: Histórias de Vitor Junqueira (7): A chacun, sa putain… Ou Fanta Baldé, a minha puta de estimação” [Guinea 63/74—P1475: Stories of Vitor Junqueira: To each, his whore… Or Fanta Baldé, my pet whore] (31/01/2007). In this entry, Vítor Junqueira, a medical officer in Guinea, describes a relationship he had with a Guinean woman. Luís Graça calls the story “one of the most beautiful texts that a man can write about a woman in wartime.” It is illustrated with a postcard with “Portuguese Guinea” written on it and depicting a Guinean woman with the top part of her body unclothed; hence, the colonial possession of the territory of Guinea is metaphorically projected onto the female body of the Guinean woman. For Catarina Martins (2019, 2): the African land that offers itself up to the colonizers is like a female body to be appropriated, virgin, nubile and fertile, due especially to the wild exuberance and sensual excess of nature. These attributes are in turn projected onto black women, like archetypal Eves in a heart of darkness that inexorably seduces and threatens, and thereby needs to be tamed.

The counterpoint to the white woman is obvious. A white woman would not be represented in the blog in the same terms as were used for the Guinean women (as “whore” [“puta”]). It is worth reproducing the almost anecdotal claim of a soldier, told in an interview by Jorge Cabral: What did I know about Guinea? That they were niggers [pretos]. Now note, for example, the shepherd from Trás-os-Montes who arrived in Guinea and



saw the girls with their chests uncovered. One even said to me (excuse the expression), ‘ah mate, this is all whoredom [putaria]’. (Interview with Jorge Cabral)

Maria José Lobo Antunes refers in this respect to the “misunderstandings generated by nudity: the exposure of female bodies was taken by Portuguese soldiers to be an erotic invitation without restrictions” (Antunes 2017b, 222)—an invitation also to the unrestricted reproduction of images of their bodies and of descriptions of the lust that they aroused in the soldiers from the metropole. However, these entries are not exempt from criticism on the part of the readers of these stories. As a matter of fact, blogs, unlike other traditional mediums of communication such as newspapers, books, or television, allow and give space to the contestation of claims and social representations produced by the main producers,18 such as the following anonymous commentary on the entry, which reads: Looking for images of Africa, I came across your blog. I am against war on principle, against the abuse and violence committed against other peoples, but I respect everyone that has experienced it first-hand. However, I was shocked and ashamed at the wanton lack of respect in this article. Treating the woman as a sexual object, as a whore, in the case of the African woman, revealing a total absence of consideration for a human being, for woman, clearly demonstrating the abuses of colonialism that did nothing other than exploit and mistreat other peoples. Most regrettable.

Similarly, in the book Furriel não é nome de Pai, written by a Portuguese journalist Catarina Gomes, about the children born from relationships between white men and Guinean women, and left in Guinea, we read about the same blog entry: Whenever he manages to get onto the internet, Fernando continues to wander around blogs written by Portuguese ex-combatants, no longer to look for his father, but to observe ‘parents’. It disturbs him the way photos are posted of any young African woman of that time, it was enough that she had her breasts showing, to speak of all of them. Like the black and white postcard captioned “Portuguese Guinea”, which shows a native adolescent, bare breasted, with a crucifix around her neck and a bead belt marking her hips used by a war veteran to illustrate his text: “My pet whore”. “The woman in the photo is someone’s mother”, Fernando protests, “the woman in the text too”, and they are not the same person. In the blogs by the ex-combatants,



it is as if all African women are the same one. And they were all prostitutes. (Gomes 2018, 57)

In many cases, this exercise of power is unconscious, but in others it is not. In others, the colonial violence does not go unnoticed and is openly criticized in retrospect: Ah… and there were people that had never been out of their villages before till that time. Trás-os-Montes, Minho… Beiras […]. True holes. And so, for them, that was a completely different world, they were young, but at the same time… for them, the nigger was a monkey, so, that sense of inferiority […] of the niggers, pal, that they’d never seen before but that they’d heard of […] they’re little animals round there. That generalized superiority, and I’m not even speaking of guys of political arrogance ‘you’re turras, you’re terrorists’, so it’s not that […] including those soldiers that had relations with the, with the, women from there were… there was always a sense of superiority […] alike – I dunno – a boss and the maid, using the language […] master and servant, boss and servant almost had the lord’s right [perna[da], jus primae noctis], as they say. (Interview with Manuel Joaquim)

Criticism like this could have been present at the time or it could be the product of a certain evolution in the narratives created by some war veterans, an evolution subject to the social conditions and personal perceptions about what is and is not acceptable nowadays. As Virgínio Briote mentions, it was necessary to polish the accounts of his memoirs before publishing them in the blog: Because I have some scenes there [in his diary], not of the war, of the war strictly speaking, with the guerrillas, but there are some scenes that are rather crude. […] I, how could I put it, I describe what was, what I saw people doing and what I did myself…. And also, the relationship with women there, so I write almost ipsis verbis just what our relations with them were like, and that was typically colonialist, I mean, clearly… Well, that, I don’t know, if it would be interesting writing about it, but I wrote some things and put them on Luís Graça’s blog, but before I did… before sending that to Luís Graça, I cleaned it up, right? (Interview with Virgínio Briote)

In the second example, “Guinea 61/74 – P18402 Photograph album of Virgílio Teixeira, ex-alf mil, SAM, CCS/BCAÇ 1933 (Nova Lamego e São Domingos, 1967/69)  – Part XXIII: Women and lasses (5): Nova



Lamego, 1967,” inserted into a series of publications of the same kind, Virgílio Teixeira shows his photographs of Guinean women, many of them “bajudas” (young single women) with their breasts uncovered, being stared at by the Portuguese soldiers surrounding them. According to the author of these entries, the dozens of images in his archive are shared in order to demonstrate the ethnographic variety of women in Guinea. He is using the guise of ethnographic knowledge to dissimulate any sign of desire, while at the same time revealing domination over the bodies and will of these women, whose agency was erased before the supposed scientific authority of the white man: Those women’s submission to the will of the photographer and the protagonist of these images (who would have had the initiative to have taken these shots?), indefinitely prolonged by the image that survives the circumstances that it represents, transforms these photographs into icons of colonial power  – the power that could dispose of the lives and bodies of the populations that were under its control. (Antunes 2017b, 222)

This said, it is important to keep in mind the relative power that exists in the inscription of these narratives online. As the example above shows, there is a greater capacity of white men and ex-combatants of a particular class to inscribe their subjectivity in digital environments. As Miguel Cardina points out: “the recognition of the pasts – and particularly the pasts of injustice and suffering – depends on the power that the social groups have or do not have to socially inscribe their narratives and challenge the dominant representations in society” (Cardina 2016, 33). So the limitations that certain groups face when discussing the capacity to inscribe their perspectives in the digital environment are noteworthy. This capacity depends on factors such as Internet access and basic computer knowledge, as well as minimal literacy levels. Some former combatants from middle and upper classes of Portuguese society have these requirements, but this is obviously not the case with all of them. Many of those from lower classes, often from rural areas, continue to be illiterate or semiliterate. The vast majority of the ex-combatants that participate in blogs are or were officers and sergeants from Portugal—the so-called “militia officers and sergeants” mostly drafted through conscription: Deep down it’s a bit elitist, isn’t it? Deep down, who have we got there? Alferes and furriéis. Not many real soldiers, are there? […] It’s a bit elitist,



that is. There are people that don’t even know what the internet is, aren’t there? I once asked one chap: […] ‘have you got net?’, I asked and he replied, ‘yes, I have, I’ve got a boy and a girl.’ (Interview with Jorge Cabral)

Although some Guineans participate in this blog, they are infinitely fewer in number than the veterans from the former metropole. There is only one permanent Guinean member, Cherno Baldé, who had not fought in the war himself but was one of the many Guinean children that fraternized with the troops during the conflict and formed bonds with them. He was attributed the role of specialist in ethnic-linguistic matters, and though he is a critical voice on the blog, he has little visibility given the thousands of publications by the other members. In short, the first limitation of the blog is the reproduction of the hegemonic narratives that circulate in society—mnemonic hegemony (Molden 2016: 127)—and a lack of visibility of other more critical perspectives. Not having been formed in a vacuum, the narratives present in the entries are influenced by the various discourses circulating in society. The second is the fact that blogs are losing ground before the growing weight of the new social networks, which operate with a more self-centered rationale, as is the case with Facebook or Twitter. The third is the material, social, and economic constraints that restrict internet access to particular groups, meaning that certain communities of memory are unable to inscribe their perception of events into the digital space. This then perpetuates the cycles of exclusion and invisibility. I’m starting now to see many people swerving to the right, I don’t know why, with age. (Interview with Jorge Cabral)

At last, most of the men that I spoke to in the interviews assumed a leftwing position, critical of colonialism and of the war. However, some of those same men assured me that the blog was dominated above all by men of the right, nostalgic for the colonial and dictatorial past, or men that used a right-wing patriotic discourse to defend their actions in the war as fulfilling the duty of defending the fatherland. The negative part that I think to see.… I see there are people who are still clinging to the past. The kind that are saying ‘if it were now, I would go all over again’. Me, I wouldn’t go. With what I know after all these years, I wouldn’t go… I would scarper. (Interview with Virgínio Briote)



Final Considerations The public silence, on the one hand, and the enormous impact of the Colonial War on Portuguese society, on the other, enable us to understand the need, felt by thousands of veterans, to use the internet in general and blogs in particular as alternative ways of “telling their story.” Some pursue visibility, others public recognition (which they believe to be due to them), others want to transmit their testimony to the next generations—children and grandchildren or seek the therapeutic benefits they believe the blog could provide them—blogotherapy—after many years of silence. The camaraderie and support they find among each other are important components of blog sociability and key elements of this so-called blogotherapy. At the same time, these platforms enable researchers to gain access to personal digitalized contents, such as photographs and vernacular narratives that cannot be analyzed in traditional media due to the logic of standardized production-consumption. Although unlike published texts, these platforms pose the challenge of a constantly changing and evolving environment. The blogs not only give space to the continuing construction and sharing of memories of the Colonial War, but also reflect the need that these men feel to give meaning to an experience that does not slot into the official narratives about the colonial past. In the same way, they enable us to understand the colonial relations established during the period of war on Guinean territory and the way they have developed into the present. However, as we have already noted, the descriptions of those relations are dominated by the colonial subjectivity of the white men who fought on the Portuguese side, and especially, by those who, through force of circumstance, have access to virtual media today, enabling them to inscribe their perceptions and representations of the past in the public space on line. This said, it is not possible to capture those trajectories with simplifications, or better, it is not possible to essentialize or reify them. These men led a life ruled by contradictions, reflections, and rationalizations, incorporating diverse narratives into their worldview. Their life stories and their memories are the product of cross-referenced discourses, public silence, and the attempt to break it. The virtualization of their testimony challenges the public silence, while at the same time producing many other silences, and it contributes to a greater knowledge of the mechanisms that frame social memory and the forgetting of freedom struggles, but it is still but a drop in the immense ocean of mnemonic products being produced by these men.



Acknowledgments  This research is part of a larger collaborative project on the history of memory of the Portuguese colonial wars/liberation wars  that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (Grant Agreement No 715593: “CROME  – Crossed Memories, Politics of Silence: The Colonial-­ Liberation Wars in Postcolonial Times”). I would also like to thank Karen Bennett for translating the portuguese version of the text.

Notes 1. The lunch reunions have taken place for 13 years, since 2006, but have only been in the same place (Monte Real) for the last 9. 2. There were three colonial wars/wars of liberation fought between the Portuguese state and the liberation movements of Angola (UPA/FNLA, MPLA, UNITA), Mozambique (FRELIMO), and Guiné-Bissau/Cape Verde (PAIGC) between 1961 and 1974–1975. The conflict began in Angola in 1961, spreading to Guinea in 1963 and to Mozambique in 1964. 3. Ten semistructured interviews were carried out over the course of a year (from June 208 to May 2019) of the permanent members of the Luís Graça and Guinea Comrades blog that were available. The interviews were audio-­recorded and transcribed. They were carried out in Portuguese and all the excerpts transcribed in the present article have been translated into English. The blog contents have been analyzed using critical discourse analysis and content analysis. 4. Pluricontinentalism [pluricontinentalismo] was a geopolitical concept advocated by the dictatorial regime of Estado Novo. According to this concept, Portugal was a transcontinental country and a unitary nation-state, encompassing continental Portugal and its overseas provinces (Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe). The aim was to defend the idea that Portugal was not a colonial empire, but a singular nation state spread across three continents, in order to bypass the article 73-b of the Declaration regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories (Charter of the United Nations, Chapter XI) and the UN resolution 1514(XV) “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to colonial countries and peoples.” 5. For a critique of the concept of “discoveries” [descobrimentos], see the article “A controvérsia sobre um Museu que ainda não existe. Descobertas ou Expansão?” Expresso, at: 6. Between 2000 and 2010, there was an increase of 530.9% in the number of internet subscribers in Portugal. Data from ANACOM and the



Portuguese National Institute of Statistics, available atà+Internet-2093. The internet penetration rate in Portugal in 2000 was 16.43%, rising to 53.3% in 2010. More recent data suggest a penetration of 73.79% in 2017. Data from the International Telecommunication Union from Eurostat and the Portuguese National Institute of Statistics, available at ITU-D/Statistics/Pages/stat/default.aspx 7. Technological concept, characteristic of internet writing to refer to a network of texts or words interconnected by means of a link. 8. As Jodi Dean “I favor the term ‘blogipelago’ over the more common ‘blogosphere.’ […] The term ‘blogosphere’ tricks us into thinking community when we should be asking about the kinds of links, networks, flows, and solidarities that blogs hinder and encourage. ‘Blogipelago,’ like archipelago, reminds us of separateness, disconnection, and the immense effort it can take to move from one Island or network to another. It incites us to attend to the variety of uses, engagements, performances, and intensities blogging contributes and circulates” (Dean 2010: 38). 9. There are other ways in which a diary differs from the blog. Apart from the belief that a diary is a private account rather than a public one, there are other differences in issues of access, durability, the techniques of writing, among others. 10. Assuming you have already paid for the internet service. 11. Blog available at: 12. Interview with Luís Graça carried out by Diana Andringa within the project CROME. 13. Op. cit. 14. In the Portuguese magazine Visão, article by João Dias Miguel (22nd April 2010), “Internet. A ‘blogoterapia’,” p. 78. 15. Publication available at: https://blogueforanadaevaotres.blogspot. com/2010/05/guine-6374-p6502-blogoterapia-150-rosa.html. 16. Tabanca is a  term used to  refer to  a  village in Guinea-Bissau. The  term was appropriated by former combatants from the Portuguese colonial side who lived in  those villages during their stay in  Guinea. It symbolizes the  community of  veterans that were born and  that developed affective bonds during that period that still last. 17. Publication available at: https://blogueforanadaevaotres.blogspot. com/2009/12/guine-6374-p5413-era-obrigacao-da.html. 18. There are certain restrictions. Commentaries can be deleted by the blog editor. In the end, it depends on the decisions and policies of the blog’s owners.



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Conclusion David J. Simon and Eve Monique Zucker

The contributions to this volume address a variety of ways in which memorialization in the twenty-first century has drifted away from the control of the state. They also illustrate how the act of memorialization changes when it is initiated from non-states sources, and in particular when it is relocated to a virtual space (or at least the internet). By way of conclusion, we identify and discuss several themes that emerge across multiple contributions to this volume. We then consider the implications of the unmooring of memorialization for larger issues such as memory and truth, and conclude with some suggestions for further research.

D. J. Simon (*) Department of Political Science, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA e-mail: [email protected] E. M. Zucker Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 E. M. Zucker, D. J. Simon (eds.), Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




Common Themes Several of the authors illustrate the various ways in which non-state actors contest state efforts to define a common past. In both Turkey and Rwanda, the state has exerted an unrelenting effort to monopolize memory of mass atrocity, albeit in starkly different ways. In Turkey, this involves taking a hard line against almost any suggestion that genocide against Armenians (or other minorities) occurred in the nineteenth or twentieth centuries. In Rwanda, the Kagame regime established a legal framework to preclude deviation from its preferred narrative of the causes, scapegoats, and heroes in the course of the genocide against the Tutsi. (Indeed the words “against the Tutsi”—a wholly accurate and useful qualifier to the word genocide— must, as a matter of law, be used in reference to the events of 1994). Yet, Armenian Turks and Rwandan Tutsis, as survivors of genocide or descendants thereof, find ways to express their own experiences as survivors. Marsoobian shows how the recovery of everyday pre-1915 photographs, even without directly referencing the experience of the genocide, has become a way, a century later, for Armenians to remember a past that genocide was supposed to have erased. While Turkish censors fretted over the visual representation of the word (in Armenian) for genocide, the broader point that memory might serve to promote the recognition of the genocide may have been the more powerful challenge to the Turkish state’s narrative. In Rwanda, the “challenge” Wolfe describes is not one of denial versus recognition, but instead concerns local residents’ abilities to remember traumatic events on their own terms instead of those presented to them by the state. They do so not to rebuke the state or refute its narratives, but to create a space to remember and to grieve as best fits their needs. In other cases, the state, while not pushing a hard line to deny the past or remember it in a specific way, is simply not interested in recognizing the trials and trauma of the past. Thus, Portuguese veterans of a colonial war that post-1975 regimes would just as soon forget are able to reclaim their experiences through internet blogs, while Haitian activists can recall patterns of abuse within and across different regimes. These spaces of memory may serve a political purpose—perhaps to recover a perceived glory of colonial Portugal, or to inveigh against impunity for abusive regimes, respectively. But they also serve to acknowledge what the past consists of, to seek recognition for pain and suffering endured but not acknowledged by the state, and to restore a measure of dignity to those whose sacrifices



had gone unrecognized. Whether, and how forcefully, these private narratives do end up invoking a public agenda is an open question meriting further study. A second frequent theme of the contributions to this volume is the manner in which non-state memorialization serves to reclaim the past for non-state actors. Beyond the goal of challenging foregoing state narratives of past events, non-state memorialization efforts can, perhaps more effectively than state efforts, invoke the culture, the lives, and the people that were targeted for destruction by way of programs of mass atrocity. Marsoobian and Khoury highlight how non-state memorialization illuminates and revivifies pre-genocide culture in Armenia and Cambodia, respectively, where the state has limited or no interest in engaging in such cultural recognition. Khoury documents how ordinary Cambodians construct online identities by incorporating elements of their cultural heritage onto their pages that the Khmer Rouge sought to destroy. This act at once re-empowers these cultural forms demonstrating their resiliency and inscribes this power onto the owner of the sites’ identity. In Cambodia, the contemporary state in memorializing the mass atrocities of the Khmer Rouge eschews recognition of elements of “traditional” Khmer culture (such as the royal family), focusing instead on the heroism of the prime minister in ending the conflict through his “win-win” policy and through the UN-supported Khmer Rouge Tribunal. A resurgent royalism could pose a political challenge to the current leaders’ legitimacy. In Turkey, the state presumably fears that recognition of the fullness of life as lived in Anatolian Armenian communities prior to 1915 will indicate that some act, plan, or program—namely one of genocide—actively contributed to the erasure of as much after 1915. In their chapter, Naron and Toth posit that the Let Them Speak database also offers opportunities to reclaim elements of the pre-genocide past, albeit through the curation by individual users rather than by professional memorialists. An alluring purpose of the project is to allow the study of the Holocaust to recognize consistent patterns not just in the deaths or suffering of Jews in the Holocaust (which is the focus in their chapter), but also in Jewish life. These rich details of Holocaust survivor testimonies are often glossed over, with focus devoted more to the harrowing experiences of survival and loss. The program, Let Them Speak, permits the possibility of reclaiming a more complete understanding of those experiences by inferring common themes across similar testimonies. This, in turn, allows testifiers—and more broadly, their families—to reclaim the dignity



and some of the complexity of their lives. In this way, the database serves the project of preserving the memory of precisely what the perpetrators of genocide sought to destroy. In other cases, such as the 9/11 museum, the reclaimed narrative is less about an alternative to the state’s project (which is not as applicable in that case), and more about reclaiming individualized memory itself: Drakakis described how ordinary objects, evoking quotidian patterns of pre-attack life, offer a more complete picture of victims. These might otherwise be left remembered, in a memorial setting at least, as a name inscribed in stone. That inscription reflects a dedication to “never forgetting,” but on its own, falls short of remembering in a more complete sense. The digital showcasing of recovered objects, connected to a story of to whom they belonged and how they were found, humanizes victims of the terrorist attack. Moreover, the dynamic nature of some of these exhibits through the ongoing gathering of photos and other artifacts makes the memorial a living monument. A dominant theme throughout the instances of memorialization examined in the preceding chapters is that memorialization serves as an outlet of expression for the otherwise voiceless. In this respect, when beyond the control of the state, memorialization becomes a public expression otherwise unavailable. Though an important end unto itself, non-state memorialization may also constitute a means by which individuals and groups reclaim their agency with respect to the past, and thereby establish a measure of independence from state control. To display pre-genocide photographs of Armenian towns in an Istanbul gallery poses, on its own terms, a contradiction to the Erdogan regime’s genocide denial. The virtual recreation of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp renders visible what the US government sought to hide via restrictions in physical access. Online memorials to Haitian massacre victims might lead Haitian citizens to question whether contemporary politics (and regimes) is rooted in the past practices from which current regimes insist they’ve broken. Cambodian social media sites where individuals invoke the potency of traditional cultural forms provide an alternative means of countering the violence of the Khmer Rouge than the narratives of the Cambodian state. These cases exhibit how the transgressive qualities of non-state memorialization do not seek to confront the state outright, but nevertheless make a point of challenging the state’s monopoly on narrative creation and make visible that which the state seeks to hide or obscure. How states respond to such challenges is likely to vary. As memorialization takes to virtual spaces and



the internet, states may resort to more draconian measures in order to regain or preserve their monopoly on historical narrative as they may already be doing in other places. For example, in each of Thailand, China, Singapore, Turkey, and Cambodia, laws have been passed to restrict criticism of the state and its narratives including those concerning the past. Another theme that emerges from the case studies regards the possibility that memorialization “unmoored” may also come to serve less laudable objectives than those of contestation, reclamation, and giving voice, as noted above. To be distinct from the state does not lead one to a particular claim on virtue; to be freed from physical space is no guarantee of freedom from bias. Indeed, while state articulation and physical presence certainly do embed biases in memorialization, those biases are necessarily somewhat transparent. When non-state actors engage in memorialization, whether in physical or virtual space, they may choose to do so essentially anonymously. If they push, even implicitly, an alternative narrative, they may do so without any means of accountability for its consequences. Goulding’s contribution on virtual Guantanamo museums illustrates some of the potential pitfalls. For example, the portrayal of torture in the Second Life site Gone Gitmo is designed to make visitors (or, technically, users) uncomfortable, first and foremost with the implications of American policy toward detainees in the real-life Guantanamo Bay prison camp. Yet, virtually simulated torture runs the risk of inducing similar reactions as to actual torture in some, and of trivializing the gravity of actual torture for others. Certainly, the range of experiences might describe a traditional, physical museum that addresses human rights violations. However, with the experience decentralized from any physical place in the Gone Gitmo case, there are fewer means to attempt to condition (or even observe) the desired type of reflections. On the internet, there is no docent available to shush an unruly teenager violating expectations of decorum—nor is there a security guard to usher out someone engaged in political disruption. Indeed, an essential feature of virtual memorialization is the loss of control (which may, perhaps, be illusional in any event). In other circumstances, decentralized experiences might lead to more nettlesome issues. As Wolfe writes, decentralized narrative construction (if not quite “memorialization” per se) in the form of filmmaking led to the lionization in the global imagination of an individual, Paul Rusesebagina, who is alternatively cast as more of a villain than a hero by the current Rwandan regime. The Rwandan government’s efforts to monopolize in-­ country memorialization efforts, accordingly, is motivated by a fear that



perpetrators and denialists could use decentralized memorialization efforts to recast both their own experiences and the genocide as a whole to serve two loathsome ends: (1) disrespect of the memory of the genocide against the Tutsi, and/or (2) a challenge to the regime’s place in the narrative it has crafted.1 The Let Them Speak project raises another potential concern of memorialization unmoored: that more open-source and participatory forms of memorialization (or, in this case, memory research) could be manipulated for means unintended by the curators of the project. Conceivably, the same tools that enable researchers to pull together narratives of grief and loss, or of courage and resistance, could also be used to create or reinforce stereotypes that may be incorporated in hate propaganda. Outright Holocaust denial would be harder to reconstruct, but the availability of so many testimonies, as, essentially, the composite of snippets and word strings, may risk undermining the integrity of the larger story being told in any given testimony. The potential for bias—or really, the inevitability of it—is also a matter of concern for decentralized memorialization. Non-state memorialists can make greater or lesser efforts to be inclusive in their attempts to construct narratives about the past, present, and future. Carey observes that the organizations engaged in virtual memorialization in Haiti are typically the province of the better off, with access to the internet in a country with weak internet coverage overall. Haitian memorialist organizations may also possess better connections with donors than most Haitians have. Indeed, Carey points out that the proximity of memorialists to foreign funding has been leveraged into a point of suspicion against them. Ferreira notes that the memorialization of late colonial Portuguese soldiers is distinctly patriarchal. Photos shared on the websites she describes evoke not just the sacrifice of the soldiers and their families of the day, but also the inherent misogyny and racism that animated the colonial project. Viewers of these sites may or may not possess the critical analytical faculties to contextualize such biases. For some, a nostalgia for the “good old days” might supersede the memorializing intent of the sites, while negating the problematic elements of Portuguese imperialism. Another theme throughout the text is the role of the imaginary as an essential and potent medium through which state and non-state actors represent and come to terms with difficult pasts. As several of the chapters show, digital tools and mediums provide new spaces and modes of expression for memorialization activities. In Goulding’s chapter, this is taken to



extremis where on the one hand Guantanamo is remembered through a multiplayer online virtual 3-D world and on the other Guantanamo is “remembered” in an imaginary future through a fictitious museum website. We see in the first case an empathic imaginary at work where “users” “playing” through their avatars become Guantanamo prisoners experiencing incarceration and even simulated torture. In the second case, the site’s designers trick us into imagining Guantanamo in the future as a tourist destination as many prisons are today. In Narin and Toth’s chapter, the imaginary is digitally constructed through a linguistic database founded in Holocaust testimonies. An imagined—but no less poignant—reality is derived from the composite testimony of multiple survivors. By providing us the means to imagine experiences and circumstances of mass atrocities and their aftermaths, digital mediums and tools are changing the ways in which we think about those events and the people, places, and circumstances that are part of that past.

Implications With the eruption of online memorialization and the concomitant digitizing of just about everything—issues of truth, veracity, and trust emerge. The easy manipulation of images, film, and other media using editing apps and software has produced a perception that most images we encounter digitally have been edited, perhaps multiple times. Ritchin notes that viewers reaction to a digitized photo depicting a scene that would have been considered sensational before, is now simply dismissed as being the product of clever digital editing (2009: 32). Indeed, “post-truth,” defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief,” was declared to be the “word of the year” in 2016, according to Oxford Dictionaries (Anderson and Rainee 2017). Collective memory rests to a certain degree on the acceptance or agreement on a set of “truths” about the past that are substantiated, articulated, and transmitted through narrative means. With the surge of narratives about past mass violence events—conveyed through assemblages of images, video, audio, text, illustrations—and shared over social media, weblogs, and websites, there are opportunities for micro-collectivities, and communities to engage in the construction of their own shared memories. Here collective memory loses shape as communal boundaries becoming increasingly heterogeneous. It is true that in times when oral



transmission dominated communications, heterogeneity also prevailed as storytellers molded the tale they told to themselves and their audience. However, multiple accounts were more limited in scale and availability. While a plethora of accounts of the past on the one hand is a good thing— in contrast to some Orwellian totalitarian monopolization of history, at least—on the other hand, the sheer multiplicity raises doubts about any one view over another in some circumstances. As in Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, truth becomes amorphous, with no absolute; and it is difficult to determine whether one subject’s version has greater veracity than another. These competing versions of the past of course raise questions for justice. What is “right” may depend on positionality. If they could, would courts then perhaps have the jury experience, virtually, the positions of the accused and witnesses in a court case? For that matter, does a collective agreed-upon truth still matter, or is memory of mass atrocities being re-­ understood as an entirely subjective enterprise? What does a multiplicity of “truths” imply for trust in any particular narrative with so many different versions equally available? And does a distrust in the veracity of particular representations become a much larger distrust of any representation of the past as in the undoctored photo mentioned by Ritchin above? While these questions seem to be inherent to the digital mediums, it is also true that manipulation of images and false narratives (such as Holocaust denial literature and media), have long existed, well before the internet and web 2.0. We can ask, then, whether digital memorialization is really something different than material beyond it being perhaps a less-­ tangible form of representation. Boellstorff (2008: 5) has argued that the virtual is really nothing new; as humans we experience reality through the “prism of culture.” That is, we imaginatively understand the world and each other through the values and meanings that actual people, animals, and objects represent for us, and the symbols we use then convey these meanings. The use of symbols, whether it be a concrete memorial or a website, is something that is used to represent something else. We memorialize outside of the online world and we also do it online. So, on some level, it is very much the same thing; that is, creating a representation of the past through images and accompanying narratives. Yet it is also something more. While it is not surprising that people take their offline interests and activities online and use digital tools that allow us to craft the memorials in new ways, the question is, however, whether these digital tools and platforms change the way we think about those things. In other words, does the idea of what a memorial could be or should be change



with the form of media? Do we view memorials differently? Sherry Turkle (2017) has argued that it is a mistake to think of digital devices and platforms as mere tools or extensions of we already do. Instead, the digital fundamentally changes who we are and what our notions of fundamental concepts like death and “aliveness” mean. Does this then change how we think about death, violence, and the past? While these digital tools allow for insidious possibilities with their ability to distort, corrupt, and fabricate, they also offer more positive potentialities. Memorials of the future might be constructed before or during a conflict allowing those who interact and engage with these memorials the opportunity to imagine alternative outcomes both violent and peaceful in various forms and scenarios. They may allow us to more easily shift perspectives, providing us with different types of knowledge, better insights into past or present mass atrocities, and the ability perhaps to gain a more intimate perspective and understanding of the lives that were lost, as exemplified in the archived webpages and digital recordings of the 9/11 Museum, as detailed in Drakakas’s chapter. Thus, Goulding’s example of the fictitious tourist destination that is Guantanamo Bay Prison in the future represents a key component of the digital virtual world: virtual online realms and digital processes allow for the opportunity to construct possible futures, presenting and even memorializing them before they happen. As such, they open a far more multidimensional way of understanding, situating, and potentially preventing events of mass violence before they happen. In addition, new Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies such as machine learning and Deep Dream can provide insights beyond what we can contemplate without such artificially computed assistance. The mixed digital mediums presented in this volume including social media, websites, 3-D virtual worlds, data repositories with combined text mining, and digital interactive exhibits suggest the variation and multiple dimensions of digital memorialization. Each of these augments the knowledge, perceptions, and potential responses to a particular set of individuals or events that are being memorialized. It allows the creators to have more tools to craft their message by extending the palate of experiences. Beyond the chapters contained in this volume, there are many more mediums developed and under development as discussed in the introduction and further down. Will these ways of encountering, engaging with, and experiencing difficult pasts change who we are as individuals, communities, and as nations? Will they open up new ways of thinking, previously not possible because we didn’t have the tools to imagine them? Or might the



virtual representation supersede the actual, raising deeper questions? Could the merging of the virtual with the actual become something closer to the “disturbational art” as described by Arthur Danto, who identifies the disturbance as emanating from the breach of “the insulating boundaries of art and life,” thereby providing an experience that representation fails to achieve because it is recognized as a representation? (Danto 2005, 121) Holograms, virtual reality, and evermore sophisticated AI in particular raise these questions. The digital is changing us, reconfiguring time and space and, at the same time, opening up new dimensions. Whether we lose something valuable in the process remains a question.

Future Directions Our understandings of current digital memorialization, its implications, and its potential trajectories into the future are still nascent. Thus, far much of the understanding of these new forms of communications and its associated tools and resources have drawn from what we know about when an earlier seismic shift happened with the print revolution that followed the transition to electronic mediation such as radio, TV, and film. These developments have given some notion as to the enormity of the impacts new media can have on states, citizens, and societies. In addition, there has also been a number of present-based studies that either focus on a particular technology such as a hologram or social media on a specific event such as the commemoration of a war, terrorist attack, genocide, or massacre. There is a need to study further the integrated uses of social media, online databases, editorial apps, and other digital tools and platforms that are mobilized by states and individuals in memorial practices. We also need more in-depth case studies of particular historical events as they are produced and understood through digital mediums, so that we may glean better insights as to how different cultures and contexts produce different types of memorialization through digital means. Just as memorialization takes very different forms in different times, places, and cultures—so too, will we see variation in the way the violent past is being understood and remembered by individual communities. Despite the proliferation of online access, smartphones, and other digital devices and tools, there still remains issues of access and representation. Even if mobile technology is available to most, internet access may not be. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, there are also issues of states limiting what



can be shared online. Language and digital literacy are two additional restrictions on the ability to influence online and digital memorialization practices. There still remains numerous languages that have been put into unicode, and digital literacy is also not equal among populations. On the other hand, unlike more traditional literacy, those on the internet have more ways to participate in online memorialization because they do not require the level of written literacy and connections to publish their work. Now, anyone with a social media account and internet access can participate by engaging with and sharing particular websites, photos, and YouTube videos. While language still remains an obstacle, there are more options for translation and modes of communication than in the past. Despite these benefits, however, issues of representation and equal access remain an issue. With digital memorialization comes a number of philosophical issues that warrant further exploration, including questions pertaining to the epistemological, ontological, existential, and ethical dimensions of the digitization of mass violence histories and memories. Several of these issues were already raised, such as those pertaining to veracity, representation, and misuse. Other questions are sure to arise: What are the moral and legal implications for state and non-state actors incorporating images and other digitized artifacts to create memorials? What issues arise when digitized artifacts are poached from memorial sites for projects that may be remote from the purpose of the memorial? Who moderates the content of social media sites and how may that influence what ends up included or excluded in remembrance sites? If, as an ontological and epistemological matter, who we are is to a large extent our collective memories and the narratives that accompany them, then does the manner in which we recall and narrate the past online change in some sense who we are and what we can know about ourselves? Is our way of knowing changing? Does the acknowledgment of the existence of certain peoples and cultures depend ultimately on their representation on digital media? Finally, significantly more research needs to be developed that examines how novel forms of representation through digital mediums fundamentally alter our relationship to past mass atrocities and provide new possibilities for prevention. The multidimensional capabilities of digital media and tools allow for presentation from multiple positionalities and vantage points, as well as providing tools that enable better analysis of the potential causes of genocides and mass violence. In addition to understanding causes and effects, part of prevention also requires education. These



avenues are already being explored through projects such as the holograms created at the Shoah Foundation, interactive educational websites, education through gaming platforms, and ever-more advanced multimedia displays at museums. Moving forward, the methods and conceptual ideas for engaging audiences will continue to evolve, challenging both our understanding of the past, as well as our awareness of how we understand the past, in so doing. Further study of how the digital age shapes the memorialization of mass atrocity by state and non-state actors will continue to illuminate how some versions of the past are buoyed by social media or other digital tools, and how those same tools might be employed to contest or submerge particular narratives. The contributions to this volume invite broader conversations across disciplines, institutions, and the wider public as the digital revolution continues to shape and be shaped by our pasts, presents, and futures.

Note 1. For more on this, see Longman’s (2017) discussion of the Kagame regime’s efforts at narrative control (pp. 22–27).

Bibliography Anderson, Janna, and Rainee, L. 2017. The Future of Truth and Misinformation Online. [Online] Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Available at: Accessed 8 Nov 2019. Boellstorff, Tom. 2008. Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Danto, Arthur C. 2005. The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art. New York: Columbia University Press. Longman, Timothy. 2017. Memory and Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Ritchin, Fred. 2009. After Photography. New York: W.W. Norton. Turkle, Sherry. 2017. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. 3rd ed. New York: Basic Books.


A AEGIS Trust (non-governmental organization), 20, 30, 33, 34 Alternative right, 7 American South, 4 Amplification, 12 Anadolu Kültür (non-governmental organization), 53, 61, 66 Analogy, 85 Anatolia, 13, 46, 49, 50, 52, 54–56 Angkorian period, 100 Angkor temples, 100, 102, 109, 111 Angola, 199, 219n2, 219n4 Anne Hendricks Bass Foundation (non-governmental organization), 104 Apps, 231, 234 Archive(s), 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 20, 32–35, 41n29, 47, 50, 54, 57, 63, 65, 71–93, 95–98, 101–107, 110, 111, 115, 116, 117n5, 118n16,

136, 178, 183, 184, 192, 193n2, 193n3, 203, 206, 212, 216 Archive-It, 125, 134, 136 Aristide, Jean-Bertrand, 177, 178, 182, 183, 186, 187, 189, 193 Armenia, 13, 50, 53, 64, 227 Armenian genocide, 6, 7, 13, 45–66 Armenian Genocide Museum, 7 Artifacts, 7, 14, 35, 45, 65, 112, 124, 126–128, 130–133, 136–138, 164, 228, 235 Artificial intelligence (AI), 9, 10, 233, 234 Arts, 13, 30, 36, 41n29, 48, 53, 62, 64, 87, 95–116, 117n2, 117n6, 125, 141–169 Audiovisual recordings, 96, 99, 102 Augmented reality, 8 Auschwitz-Birkenau, 10 Auslander, Philip, 97 Avatar(s), 147, 149–156, 231

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s) 2020 E. M. Zucker, D. J. Simon (eds.), Mass Violence and Memory in the Digital Age, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




B Barthes, Roland, 8 Bin Laden, Osama, 125 BlackLab, 78, 80, 93n8, 93n10 Blog(s), 10, 15, 112, 125, 134–138, 146, 150, 151, 197–218, 219n3, 220n8, 220n9, 220n18, 226, 231 Boellstorff, Tom, 2, 169n2, 232 Bones, 25, 30, 31, 37, 190 Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center, 104, 107, 117n5, 117n6 Bush, George W., 142, 146 Butler, Judith, 158, 167, 168, 209

60, 103, 161, 176, 177, 180, 182, 185, 188, 234 Confederate memorials, see Memorial(s), confederate memorials Corpus Query Language (CQL), 80, 81, 83, 93n10 Counter-memorials, see Memorial(s), counter-memorials Cultural destruction, 46–66 Cultural heritage, 13, 45, 46, 48, 53, 96, 100, 108, 110–112, 117n3, 133, 227

C Cambodia, 40n24, 96–107, 109, 111–113, 118n16, 119n20, 227, 229 Cambodian classical dance, 13 Cambodian classical musical theater, 98, 104 Cambodian genocide, 103 Camp X-Ray, see Guantánamo Bay detention camp Catholic Church, The, 22, 23 Center for Khmer Studies (CKS), 104 China, 11, 229 Civil society organizations, 28, 178 Cold Case Diary, 10 Collectif contre l’Impunité (non-­ governmental organization), 180, 183, 184 Collective history, 96 Collective memory, 1, 3, 15, 46, 52, 60, 61, 66, 73, 96, 103, 125–126, 231, 235 Colonial wars, 6, 197–201, 203, 204, 206, 207, 212, 218, 219n2, 226 Commemoration(s), 3, 20–29, 31, 32, 34–36, 38n9, 39n12, 41n29, 56,

D Danto, Arthur, 234 Database, 6, 8, 12, 13, 34, 93n9, 105, 106, 108, 111, 125, 179, 185, 227, 228, 231, 234 Data-mining, 13 De Kosnik, Abigail, 109 De la Peña, Nonny, 145–157 Deep Dream, 233 Democratic Kampuchea, 99–101, 103, 117n6 Demonstrations, 93, 109 Désir, Luc, 176 Detention, 66, 142, 143, 165 Devoir de Memoire, Haiti (non-­ governmental organization), 179, 185, 187 Diaspora, 46, 50, 53, 60, 98, 100, 102, 177, 184 Digital archives, 20, 33, 35, 71–93, 95, 98, 106, 136, 178, 183, 193n2 Digital artifacts, 7, 124, 131, 133, 137 Digital documentation, 97 Digital environments, 8, 72, 92, 97, 168, 216


Digital heritage, 125, 126 Digital Humanities Laboratory, Yale University, 72 Digital literacy, 235 Digital media, 7, 11–13, 46, 53, 74, 96, 132, 148, 182, 235 Digital photographs, 198 Digital platforms, 52, 180, 204 Digital recordings, 233 Digital remembrance, 102 Digital tools, 2, 72, 91, 92, 102, 230, 232–234, 236 Digital touchscreen, 130 Dildilian family, 54–57, 59, 63 DiNardo Schorpp, Marisa, 128–133 Disturbational art, 234 Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam, non-governmental organizations), 103, 118n9 Duvalier, François, 175, 176, 194n7 Duvalier, Jean-Claude, 15, 176, 177, 179–182, 184–188, 190, 192, 193n3 E Education, 5, 6, 14, 20, 66, 99, 103, 118n9, 168, 176, 184, 192, 235, 236 Emory University, 7 Epistemological, 154–157, 235 Erdoğan, Recep Tayyip, 63, 66, 68n19, 228 Ermeni, 51 Estado Novo (Portugal), 198, 199, 206, 219n4 Ethical norms, 9–12 Ethics, 9, 15 Ex-combatants, 197, 198, 200–208, 210, 214, 216


Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), 103 Extremism, 7 F Facebook, see Social media, Facebook Fictitious identities, 5 Film, 5, 7, 8, 34, 35, 53, 63, 87, 88, 101, 124, 143, 153, 156, 194n8, 231, 234 Finding aids, 73, 93n7 Fire Department of New York (FDNY), 124 Flickr, see Social media, Flickr Fortunoff Video Archive, 72–77, 83 Foucault, Michel, 126 Frank, Anne, 10, 11 French National Institute for Audiovisual Media (INA), 106 G Gacaca courts (Rwanda), 23, 24, 39n15 Gender, 79 Genocide, 3, 9, 12, 13, 15, 19–36, 37n1, 37n2, 38n9, 38n10, 39n11, 39n12, 39n13, 39n14, 39n15, 39–40n18, 40n23, 45–65, 67n6, 91, 95–116, 118n9, 226–228, 230, 234, 235 Genocide against the Tutsi In Rwanda, 12, 27 Genocide Archive Rwanda, 33, 41n31 Genocide survivors, 9, 24, 36, 38n9, 40n23, 41n29, 72 Germany, 16n8, 23, 46, 67n6, 68n12, 76, 193n1 Gestapo, 10, 81 Gone Gitmo, 141–169, 229



Google, 120n27, 160, 202 Government of National Unity (Rwanda), 21 Greenwald, Alice, 128 Ground Zero, 124, 129, 131, 132, 137 Guantánamo Bay detention camp, 141–143, 147, 150–153, 156, 158 Guantánamo Bay Museum of Art and History, 14, 141–169 Guantanamo Prison, 14, 146 Guinea-Bissau, 198, 199, 205, 211, 219n4, 220n16 H Haiti, 175–193, 193n2, 193n4, 230 Haiti en March (newspaper), 177 Haiti Observateur (newspaper), 177 Haiti Progres (newspaper), 177 Halbwachs, Maurice, 3 Hartman, Geoffrey, 76, 83, 84 Hartman, Renee, 76 Helplessness, 150, 157 Hidden Armenians, 49, 60 Holocaust, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9–11, 13, 30, 34, 37n4, 46, 71–76, 91, 92, 93n5, 94n11, 227, 231, 232 Holocaust denial, 7, 232 Holocaust museums, 3, 152 Holocaust Survivors Film Project (HSFP), 75–77, 83, 89, 90, 93n7 Hologram, 2, 8–10, 234, 236 Hoskins, Andrew, 6, 203 Houshamadyan, 51, 52 Hrant Dink Foundation (non-­ governmental organization), 53 Human rights, 2, 6, 7, 9, 41n24, 48, 176, 178, 180, 187, 189, 190, 192, 194n6, 229

Hun Sen, 101, 113, 114 Hutton, Patrick, 2, 3, 8 Hutu, 19, 27, 31, 32, 34, 37n2 Hyperreality, 152 I Ibuka (non-governmental organization), 20, 28, 29, 34 Identity, 5, 11, 27, 35, 36, 47, 58, 60, 61, 95, 96, 98, 107–115, 123, 133, 137, 192, 204, 206, 227 Imaginary, 96, 116, 145, 158, 161, 163–167, 230, 231 Ingabire, Victoire, 31, 41n27 Instagram, see Social media, Instagram Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, 100, 110 Internet, 2, 6, 7, 11, 50, 52, 62, 97, 98, 102, 104, 107, 109, 115, 124, 133, 134, 136, 143, 159, 167, 177, 179, 180, 182, 183, 201, 202, 204, 214, 216–218, 219–220n6, 220n7, 220n10, 225, 226, 229, 230, 232, 234, 235 access to, 217, 230 Islamization, 48 Israel, 4, 75 J Jérémie massacre, The, see Massacre(s), Jérémie massacre Jerome Robbins Dance Division, 104 Jewish Heritage Museum of New York City, 10 Jewish life, 227 Jews, 227 Johnson, Chuck C., 7


K Kastenbaum, Robert, 123, 124 Khao Dang Refugee Camp, 5 Khmer culture, 112, 227 Khmer Dance Project (KDP), 104–106, 111 Khmer Rouge, 5, 11, 13, 96, 97, 99–105, 107, 117n5, 117n6, 118n9, 227, 228 Khmer Rouge Tribunal, 227 Kigali Genocide Memorial (Rwanda), see Memorial(s), Kigali Genocide Memorial (Rwanda) Kravel, Pich Tum, 105 Kurds, 60, 61 Kurosawa, Akira, 232 L La commission nationale de vérité et de justice (Haiti), 178 Lakhaon Khaol Youth of Cambodia, 111 Language, 8, 30, 40n19, 52, 60, 62, 72, 80, 81, 83, 84, 111, 154, 164, 206, 215, 235 Laos, 108 La Saline massacre (2018), see Massacre(s), La Saline massacre (2018), 181 Laub, Dori, 75–77, 125 Legal issues, 23–28 Lemkin, Raphael, 46–48, 52 Let them Speak (LTS), 71–93, 93n9, 227, 230 Levi, Primo, 84 Liberation movements, 197, 198, 219n2 Literacy, 216, 235 Lon Nol, 99 Luís Graça e Camaradas da Guiné (blog), 197


M Machine learning, 233 Macoutes, 175, 176, 182, 185, 192 Manhattan, 127, 132, 134, 137 Martelly, Michel, 177, 187, 193 Marton, Attila, 133 Mass atrocities, 37n4, 45, 176, 177, 179, 180, 182–183, 226, 227, 231–233, 235, 236 Massacre(s) Jérémie massacre, The, 185, 190 La Saline massacre (2018), 181 Massively multiplayer online role-­ playing game (MMORPG), 8, 146 Meierhenrich, Jens, 33 Memorabilia, 6, 15, 95, 97, 107, 110, 115, 116, 138n1 Memorial Commission on Genocide and Massacres in Rwanda, 22 Memorial(s) Confederate memorials, 4 counter-memorials, 5 Kigali Genocide Memorial (Rwanda), 33, 34, 42n34 Murambi Genocide Memorial (Rwanda), 29 Memorialization memorialization (non-state), 1, 13, 227, 228 memorialization (state), 2–7, 12, 13, 228 Memories personal memory, 124, 200, 203 public memory, 161, 198, 200 Merzifon, 58–61, 63–66 Mnemonic creation, 202 Mnemonic objects, 3, 203 Mobile technology, 6, 234 Mock, Karen, 6 Moïse, Jovenel, 177, 187, 193



Monument to the Combatants of Overseas, see Monument(s), Monument to the Combatants of Overseas Monument(s), 3, 4, 6, 12, 21, 26, 38n6, 51, 200, 228 Monument to the Combatants of Overseas, 200 Mugabo, Pio, 22 Murambi Genocide Memorial (Rwanda), see Memorial(s), Murambi Genocide Memorial (Rwanda) Music archives, 101 MySpace, see Social media, MySpace N Narrative(s), 1–6, 9–13, 15, 19–37, 37n5, 38n9, 39n17, 40n23, 40–41n24, 46, 56, 58, 64, 85, 86, 96, 98, 102–106, 110, 115, 116, 125, 127, 145, 149, 158–167, 176, 179, 198, 199, 201–207, 212–218, 226–232, 235, 236, 236n1 National commemoration ceremony (Rwanda), see Commemoration(s) National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG, Rwanda), 23–26, 30, 38n6 National Day of Commemoration (Haiti), 179 Nationalism, 115, 116 National Security Administration (NSA, United States), 143 National September 11 Memorial Museum, 124, 137 The National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (Rwanda), 24 Nazi, 3, 4, 10, 55

Netnography, 204 New York City, 10, 14, 124, 129, 134, 149 New York City Medical Examiner’s office, 128 New York City Public Library (NYPL), 104 9/11 Memorial Museum, 123–138, 138n1, 138n4, 228 Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), 20, 21, 30, 100, 177, 179–188 Non-state memorialization, 1, 13, 227, 228 Nora, Pierre, 105 Norodom Sihanouk, 96, 111 Norway, 4 Nudity, 214 Nut, Suppya, 104, 105 O Obama, Barack, 143, 158 Online communities, 5 Online games, 8, 14 Online memorials, see Memorial(s) Ontological, 235 Oral history, 29, 77, 82, 83, 91, 95–116, 124, 130, 136 Orwellian totalitarian, 232 P Paris bombings, 2 Patel, Avnish Ramanbhai, 134–137 Pedagogy, 144, 150–152, 163–165, 169 Personal memory, see Memories, personal memory Photographs, 7, 8, 10, 13, 15, 32–34, 36, 41n29, 46, 47, 49–56, 59, 64,


65, 67n6, 91, 96, 97, 107, 109, 124, 130–133, 138n1, 141, 142, 156, 159, 163, 167, 198, 203, 206, 212, 215, 216, 218, 226, 228 Photos, 2, 5, 11, 25, 33, 41n24, 46, 56, 57, 60, 63–65, 131, 134, 137, 141, 142, 159, 184, 185, 214, 228, 230, 235 Pinpeat, 98, 99, 104, 109 Pinterest, see Social media, Pinterest Pluricontinentalism, 219n4 Pol Pot, 5, 99 Portuguese Armed Forces, 198, 210 Portuguese colonial wars, 15, 197–218 Portuguese War Veterans Association (APVG), 200 Postcolonial states, 4 Post-truth, 231 Préval, René, 178, 186 Princess Bopha Devi, 105 Project SAVE Armenian Photography Archive, 50 Propaganda, 6, 198, 199, 230 Public memory, see Memories, public memory Q Quisling, Vidkun, 4 R Rashomon, 232 Reconciliation, 23, 24, 53, 60, 103, 176, 191 Recordings, 7, 8, 40n18, 57, 75–77, 79, 83, 88, 90, 93n5, 93n9, 96, 97, 99, 102, 104, 106, 109, 117n6, 118n16, 233 Reddit, 7, 16n8 social media, 7


Reflections in the Aftermath of War and Genocide Consortium, 12 Representation, 6, 8, 36, 73, 84, 85, 87, 91, 92, 96–100, 107, 109, 110, 115, 119n19, 131, 163, 198, 203, 204, 206, 212–217, 226, 232, 234, 235 Ritchin, Fred, 231, 232 Rosenberg, William, 75 Rothstein, Edward, 137 Royal Ballet of Cambodia, 98, 100, 108 Royal University of Fine Arts, 104, 117n2 Rusesabagina, Paul, 34, 35 Rwanda, 12, 19–37, 37n4, 37n5, 38n9, 39n12, 39n15, 39n18, 40n19, 40n23, 40–41n24, 41n29, 41n31, 226 Rwandan genocide, see Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), 19, 21, 31, 36, 37n3 S Schlageter, Albert, 4 Schmidt, Jan, 104 Schmitt, Carl, 144 Scott, Randolph, 126–128 Searching for Truth, 103 Second Life, see Social media, Second Life Sentence fragments, 13 September 11th, 117n7, 123–132, 134, 136, 137, 138n1, 142, 143, 233 Shoah Foundation, 73, 236 Silence, 2, 15, 36, 45–66, 77, 89–91, 105, 180, 185, 187, 198–200, 208, 209, 218



Silencing, 12, 49, 198 Singapore, 229 Sisowath, 108 Site of memory, 51, 105 Smartphones, 65, 234 Social media, 5, 8, 57, 68n18, 109, 111, 112, 117n6, 118n9, 124, 176, 177, 235 Facebook, 5, 7, 8, 10, 109–114, 119n24, 124, 158, 180, 183–185, 193, 202, 217 Flickr, 109 Instagram, 8, 10, 109, 110 MySpace, 110 Pinterest, 108, 109 Second Life, 8, 9, 14, 145–147, 149–155, 167, 168, 169n2, 229 Twitter, 7, 8, 10, 108, 109, 113, 158, 169, 217 WhatsApp, 8 YouTube, 5, 8, 57, 68n18, 103, 109, 111, 112, 117n6, 118n9, 119n25, 124, 176, 177, 184, 235 Soldiers, 6, 15, 31, 141, 150, 199, 206, 210–216, 230 Sontag, Susan, 167, 168 Soubert, Son, 105 Soviet Union, 50 Soykırım, 56, 58 Stanford prison experiment, 150 State control, 2, 5, 12, 13, 29, 192, 228 State interest, 12, 20 State of exception, 144, 158, 160, 162–163, 168 Stokes, Martin, 110 Stories, 4, 6, 8–11, 13, 14, 36, 40n23, 50, 52, 54, 57, 58, 63, 68n15, 73, 76, 77, 83, 90, 93, 93n6,

104, 105, 124, 127, 130–132, 138, 144, 148, 165, 167, 193n2, 201, 205, 210, 213, 214, 218, 228, 230 StoryCorps, 130, 131 Storytelling, 126, 131, 133, 137, 138 Surp Giragos, 60, 68n20 Symbols, 25, 101, 110, 117n4, 136, 232 T Tabanca, 208–212, 220n16 Technology, 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 46, 50, 77, 84, 87, 89, 91, 93, 97, 109, 111, 116, 124, 126, 132, 137, 138, 146, 153, 154, 157, 176, 182, 207, 233, 234 Tehlirian, Soghomon, 47 Terrorist, 11, 142, 143, 145 Terrorist attacks, 102, 125, 128, 137, 228, 234 Terror suspects, 141–143, 145 Testimony, 3, 7, 9, 11, 13, 25, 32–34, 57, 64, 71–92, 93n3, 93n5, 93n9, 94n11, 96, 101, 103–105, 115, 116, 118n9, 118n14, 125, 127, 154, 156, 177, 185, 191, 192, 201, 206, 218, 227, 230, 231 Thailand, 108, 112, 114, 119n20, 134, 229 Thomasian, Ruth, 50 Tiananmen Square, 11 Torture, 11, 142, 147, 150, 154–157, 162, 167, 229, 231 Tradition, 3, 4, 28, 29, 31, 61, 72, 87, 89, 97, 182, 191 Transcripts, 72, 73, 77, 78, 82–84, 93n9, 130, 155 Tree of Life synagogue, 2


Trump, Donald, 143 Trust, 75, 76, 89, 91, 165, 231, 232 Truth, 4, 6, 23, 35, 151, 164, 176, 179, 180, 182, 185, 191, 192, 225, 231, 232 Tuol Sleng, 11 Turkey, 45–49, 52–66, 68n19, 68n20, 69n22, 226, 227, 229 Turkification, 48 Turkle, Sherry, 233 Tutsi, 12, 19, 25–27, 31, 32, 35, 37n1, 37n2, 226, 230 Twin Towers, 14, 128 Twitter, see Social media, Twitter U Ubaldo, Rafiki, 33, 41n29 UNESCO, 25, 26, 45, 51, 100, 110, 112, 114, 115, 117n3 Unicode, 235 Union of Angolan Peoples (UPA), 198, 219n2 United Airlines Flight 175, 126 United Nations International Civil Mission in Haiti (MICIVIH), 178 United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), 178, 179, 181, 194n6 United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), 178, 183 United Nations-Organization of American States International Civil Mission in Haiti (MICIVEH), 178 United States, The, 4, 10, 20, 34, 42n34, 49, 55, 59, 118n16, 124, 134, 142, 143, 148, 150, 156, 163, 181–184, 193n4, 228 Unmooring, 3, 8, 12, 13, 225 U.S. Holocaust Museum, 3, 152


V Veracity, 11, 231, 232, 235 Video, 5, 8, 9, 13, 33, 57, 72, 73, 77, 83, 102, 104, 108, 109, 111, 112, 116, 124, 145, 146, 156, 158, 162, 176, 177, 182, 183, 231, 235 Video testimony, 13, 34, 91, 182 VirtualANI, 50–52 Virtual reality (VR), 8, 14, 148, 149, 154, 157, 234 Virtual space, 1, 2, 46, 68n12, 167, 225, 228, 229 Virtual worlds, 2, 7, 8, 14, 76, 146, 147, 233 Visual History Archive (VHA), USC Shoah Foundation, 34, 42n34, 83 W War, 1–6, 15, 40n18, 56–58, 78, 82, 101, 102, 104, 116, 117n5, 117n7, 119n17, 160, 167, 197–212, 214, 215, 217, 218, 234 War veterans, 15, 197–218 Wayback Machine, 136 Web 2.0, 8, 202, 232 Web collections, 103 Web initiatives, 103 Weblogs, see Blog(s) Web-memorials, 103, 104 Website, 10, 14, 33, 51, 52, 102–104, 106, 108, 118n9, 125, 133, 136, 138, 145, 158–160, 164–166, 177, 181, 185, 193, 230–233, 235, 236 Web wars, 6 Well, Peggy, 63, 83, 215 WhatsApp, see Social media, WhatsApp Wiesel, Elie, 78 Wikileaks, 143



Winter, Jay, 199, 209 World Trade Center, 123, 124, 126, 127, 131–134, 136, 138n1 North Tower, 129 South Tower, 132 World War I (WWI), 5, 49 World War II, 4, 71, 117n7, 192 World Wide Web, 88, 136

Y Yale University Genocide Studies Program, 12 YouTube, see Social media, YouTube Z Zuckerberg, Mark, 7 Zurich Protocols, 53