Who Owns (the Memory of) Leonard Cohen in Montreal? Examining the Politics of Representation and Authenticity in Urban Spaces

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Margret KUSENBACH, University of South Florida, USA
Since singer and writer Leonard Cohen passed away in November 2016, different cultural and political actors in his home-town of Montreal, Canada, have created (or planned) various memorial events, ranging from make-shift shrines to murals to a large museum show. While locals agree that he is one of the city’s most emblematic sons and deserves to be honored, there are ongoing disagreements among officials, cultural actors, journalists, and residents on exactly where and how Mr. Cohen—an artist known for modesty and understatement—should be memorialized. Based on ethnographic observation as well as an analysis of news articles and online discussions, this paper chronicles the various showplaces and negotiations surrounding the cultural representation of Leonard Cohen in Montreal during the first year after his death. The paper reflects current theoretical debates and raises new questions regarding the politics of urban authenticity through and about the arts.