Everywhere one looks, one can see in the built environment—landscapes, both urban and rural—traces of the past that time’s hand has worn down. Elsewhere, monuments, memorials and museums, seek to counteract the inclination toward collective amnesia by carving out spaces of memory made of marble, granite and earth that serve as seemingly permanent reminders of stories deemed worthy of remembering. This process of place-making and memorialization is neither straightforward nor uncontroversial. While we memorialize some names, places, and stories, others are forgotten or actively erased. As such, particular values, identities and ideologies are inscribed in material landscapes. In societies still grappling with the effects of conflict, violence and trauma, debates about how to remember (or forget), a troubling past may bring lingering divisions to the surface. This course examines this contested place-making process. Specifically, this course will examine how the social construction of place intersects with the social construction of memory. In the tradition of cultural geography, students will learn to read the human landscape and the traces of the past embedded therein. In addition, students will learn about and compare spatial debates about contested sites of memory, both far afield and close to home. This includes, but is not limited to, debates about Confederate monuments in the American South, post-apartheid memorial in South Africa, post-totalitarian memory in Germany and the former Soviet Union, and post-conflict reconstruction in Lebanon and the Balkans. Finally, students will engage in creative, community-based research aimed at uncovering and telling the stories of forgotten places in the local area.


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