Commemoration, Power, and Contested Heritage: Towards "Commemorative Justice"

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:44
Oral Presentation
Jeff WAHL, Texas A&M University Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences, USA
Tazim JAMAL, Texas A&M University, USA
As recent confrontations over commemorations of Confederates from the American Civil War illustrate, public cultural heritage sites are contested spaces where social issues and historically entrenched power relations play out. Sites that commemorate cultural heritage, such as monuments and interpretive plaques, are often ideologically driven spaces, representing the subjective narratives and histories of dominant cultural groups and the “winners” (victors) of war and territorial struggles. Cultural stakeholders who possess less social influence and symbolic capital, including women and racial minorities, are often marginalized in such commemorative representations. Commemorative social space is further complicated by the presence of tourism, which exacerbates the overlap of public and private sector interests, residents, and tourists with those of competing cultural stakeholders. Yet, little research has been undertaken to critically understand these relationships in the “production” and “consumption” of cultural heritage through commemorative practices in touristic places. Theory building is lacking, and so are ethical principles to guide and evaluate public cultural heritage sites of commemoration. What is being represented at commemorative sites, by whom, to what end? What role does tourism play in this?

The purpose of this paper is to examine the commemoration of heritage with respect to contested meanings and symbolic violence, identifying issues of social justice that may lead toward a preliminary discussion of “commemorative justice”. Research methods include the exploration of relevant academic literature, and a case study on commemoration at a historic battlefield. Our study suggests that commemorative justice seeks to provide equitable representations of heritage for different stakeholders, residents and tourists in the context of sites of commemoration where tourism is a significant factor. Four commemorative management principles are forwarded based on the ethical and justice issues identified in the preliminary research that offer equitable representation to traditionally marginalized stakeholders and meaningfully enhances tourists’ understandings of the past.