Desktop version

Home arrow Political science

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font

<<   CONTENTS   >>

(Without) conclusion

Evoking Edward Said (1979, 1993), Derek Gregory describes contrapuntal geographies as “networks through which people and events in different places around the world are connected in a complex, dynamic and uneven web that both maintains their specificity and mobilizes their interactions” (Gregory 2009, emphases in original; see also Gregory 2004).12 My own conceptualization of an emergent contrapuntal archive between the Holocaust and 9/11 memory throughout this chapter underscores the transnational, transcultural production of cultural memory as national histories are co-constituted and relationally produced in postmodernity. Although I maintain the specificity of each distinct cultural memory, the Holocaust and 9/11, their aesthetic interwovenness in times of geopolitical conflict reveals much longer histories of “archival relationality” between Eastern and Western worldviews and world-making in shaping the US-led global war on terror. Despite the events of September 11, 2001 having occurred in the so-called “West”, the events were globally experienced by millions televisually. The significance of 9/11 memory at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum is therefore not bound by geography; instead, the site generates meaning, as a place of memory, through “affective attachments” with other catastrophes (Gopinath 2010). As echoed in the sentiments of two 9/11 Memorial & Museum staff members:

In some ways it’s the Holocaust’s dual impact on individuals and on a larger culture that we are struggling with, or looking at here [at the 9/11 Memorial Museum]. The Holocaust happened to the world and it also happened to over 6 million individual people and their families, and I think that 9/11 has something of that kind of impact. It’s hard because a lot of arguments can be made that terrorism happens everywhere all the time, and it’s not that we want to say that this terrorism was more important, or more significant than other terrorism, but it certainly was felt incredibly broadly. I think that this allows 9/11 to rise into a role of being a forum for understanding what it is that people can do to each other. The Holocaust museum [USHMM] has taken that kind of turn in recent years, looking at genocide more broadly, and 1 think that this is something we may end up doing in the future. (Personal Communication, October 2010, emphasis in original)

Part of what we’re telling when we tell this story is that 9/11 is everyone’s story—we’re making a museum that is very much coming out of the fact that it is all of our history. It’s not a story that happened fifty years ago in some other place. It happened at this site and it happened to all of us. And when we say all of us, we mean that globally. People are continuing to reconcile 9/11 with their everyday lives.... 9/11 is not over; the questions remain. (Personal Communication, June 2011)

Accordingly, 9/11 may become the next transnational memory culture, operating as the ‘gold standard’ by which all future acts of terrorism are measured and mapped—something we have already seen in the Indian context after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, now referred to as “India’s 9/11” (also consider France and Belgium). Thus, as this fledgling memory culture continues to move and take shape beyond the World Trade Center site, 9/11 memory reveals the hegemony and exceptionalism of US trauma, yet its effects remain uncharted.

As this chapter reveals, collective memories, particularly traumatic ones, are by no means delineated to communal boundaries or national borders. 9/11 memorials exist all over the world, with the largest numbers outside of the United States dedicated in Israel, Canada, and the United Kingdom, respectively (Doss and Gessner, n.d.). Like the Holocaust, 9/11 memory is now vital to the geopolitical management and organization of traumatic histories—past, present, and future. Under postmodernity, our memories never act alone. This next chapter locates itself within such a future, what 1 call the post-9/11 “trauma economy.” Here, 9/11 memory operates as a predominant framework for understanding and evaluating cultural trauma while also concealing subaltern memories of violence throughout the war on terror. The mobilization of this traumatic memory vis-à-vis affective heritage is thus vital to the maintenance of the post-9/11 world order.


  • 1 An older version of this chapter was published as Micieli-Voutsinas, Jacque. 2014. “Contrapuntal Memories: Remembering the Holocaust in a Post-9/11 World.” Human Geography: A New Radical Journal, 7(1): 49-68. Excerpts are reproduced here with permission.
  • 2 Although staff members from each of the nationally dedicated 9/11 memorial sites have consulted with a variety of memorial and museological institutions throughout the world, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum were the only two cultural institutions consulted by all three 9/11 memorial sites in preparation of their initial design and planning stages.
  • 3 Republican presidential rival Senator John McCain made additional, disapproving comments against his political opponent’s position on Iran (see Mason 2008 as a sample of this news coverage).
  • 4 The characterization of the above political exchanges as a new wave of Holocaust “memory” is not an attempt to equate the rhetorical evocation of the Holocaust—and its inherent symbolism—with that of lived or experiential knowledge of the Holocaust. Rather, my aim is to show how articulations of the Holocaust as symbolic are ultimately tied to larger frameworks of lived and historic memory from which said rhetoric derives.
  • 5 The lawn-sign was relocated within the 9/11 Memorial Museum in 2020 to a more temporary exhibition entitled, Revealed: the Hunt for Bin Laden.
  • 6 A note to the reader: Holocaust connections were only pursued if a research respondent mentioned the Holocaust during our interview. These references often arose in response to interview question #8: In your time at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, have you partnered with other museums or cultural institutions? If so, can you tell me about these partnerships and the kinds of collaborations they entailed?
  • 7 Geographers have been active in detailing cultural sites and moments of memory-making across the globe. However, geographies of memory—a subfield of the discipline—has been relatively slow in moving toward theorizing memory itself as an inherently transnational or transversal process, with the work of Till (2005), Legg (2007), Hyndman (2007), and Brasher (2019), as a handful of notable exceptions, amongst others.
  • 8 US involvement during the conflict was mostly directly through the United Nations and NATO.
  • 9 As Novick’s argument acknowledges, a similar logic can also be applied to the case of Rwanda where a linguistic distinction was made by the US government to demarcate “acts of genocide” from genocide to evade direct military involvement. Also see Levy and Sznaider (2006, 156-76), for their related analysis of Bosnia, Rwanda, and Kosovo.
  • 10 See Levy and Sznaider (2010) for an analysis of the global proliferation of Holocaust discourse and its role in shaping other historical contexts and human rights abuses.
  • 11 It should be noted that my deployment of the term screen-memory is not limited to its Freudian sensibilities, that is, the swapping of one traumatic memory for another in instances where the former—given its unreality—can only be accessed through its suppression vis-à-vis the latter, or the real. Rather, my deployment of screen-memory mirrors that posited by Rothberg (2009). According to Roth-berg’s theorization, screen-memories move beyond the Freudian paradigm of conflicting memory where one traumatic event dominates or ‘wins out’ over the other. Screen-memory, then, is about relatedness and (un)conscious remapping of memories throughout “network[s] of association” (2009, 16). Consequently, my articulation of the term here is to conjure this relationality between these two memory cultures, the Holocaust and 9/11, in order to trace the conscious and unconscious (re)mapping of the two throughout the global war on terror.
  • 12 In my own training as a classical musician, I understand contrapuntal as the simultaneous movement of independent melodies that, when experienced together, generate the sound of this musical form. Unlike a musical round, where one melody is repeated at different times, contrapuntal movements are based on the ability of two or more distinct melodic lines to come together in creating a unique musical expression.
<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics