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Memorialization and Religion in America

Summary and Keywords

Monuments, memorials, and museums mark America’s landscape and define both the purpose of spaces and the actors who inhabit them. From the earliest colonial encounters to the new age of mass trauma, memory and its cultural accretions have conferred meaning and denied agency at the intersections of economics, politics, culture, and religious habit. Inasmuch as battlefield memorial sites and statues to fallen soldiers generate community identity through demands for consensus memories and prescribed reactions, national memorials also reflect the diversity, contestedness, and political derivation of those consensuses and those memories. Memorials form physical sites for cultural rupture and ritual redress.

Memorialization ritualizes behaviors, standardizes emotional expressions, and regulates the terms on which Americans orient themselves relative to one another. Whether staging mock funerals for an English king or leaving flowers and notes at a site where forty-nine young people lost their lives, death forms a key experience responsible for memorial motivation, but celebrations of independence and victory also produce parades, festivals, and active memorial traditions. In the flows of past and present, life and death, preservation and change, and sanctity and secularism, memorial objects, processes, and behaviors mark and are marked by the historic developments in American religious and civil life.

Keywords: memory, memorialization, monuments, ritual, national identity, death, trauma, emotion

Memory as Ritual Performance, Political Contest, and Religious Activity

From homemade crosses along rural highways to the hallowed ground of Gettysburg, and from the seemingly eternal monuments of the National Mall to letters bleached of their messages in the daily summer storms outside Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, memorial sites and acts form an important component of American civic and religious life. Advancing the paired solitary abstractions of personal remembering and not-forgetting into the public arena, memorial constructions, habits, and observances reveal Americans in the act of regulating memories through material and behavioral mechanisms. In other words, American memorial culture involves ritual commitments, and the sanctification of objects and spaces, in an open-ended spectrum of practices that ostensibly remedy, preserve, purify, or otherwise modify ideas about a shared past. Through recitation and habit as much as through stonework, this ritualization both expresses and secularizes attitudes about transcendence, rendering public memory less an experiential recall than a system of beliefs and practices concerned with writing vicarious memories into spaces and behaviors.

Human groups establish and produce cultural memories through what Jan Assmann calls “ceremonial communication,” formalizing individual memories into concretions like texts and objects whose meaning is continually reapplied through use.1 For Maurice Halbwachs, the practice of imbuing memory into an act or an object requires generational maintenance. Furthermore, like athletic achievements, rituals that produce or maintain memory are limited both by the moods and motivations of their enactors and by the ostensibly fixed and transcendent standards of cultural values. Memory is shared and produced through a regular assent to behaviors and meanings. In this regard, social remembering and forgetting represent complementary series of what Pierre Bourdieu would call “rituals” or Catherine Bell would call “ritualizing activities.” This focus on memorializing as a ritual practice that effects transcendence through repetition arouses functionalist concerns: what purpose do memorials, and the ritual behaviors that employ or value them, serve in the religious lives of Americans?

As much as valuing memorials seems to involve natural reactions to an objective past, memorials and monuments act politically and epistemologically in the present. They prescribe normative emotional, social, and material changes and perform constitutive work in the creation and maintenance of shared identities, sanctified origins, and designating behaviors worthy of exaltation. Within this broad regulatory function, the “commitment to memory” that happens at memorial sites often says less about the intrinsic value of the objective past than about the instrumental value of establishing “pastness” as a political and ideological consensus that defines group and individual identity. Insofar as they inspire feelings of moral value regarding the past, memorial objects trade off seamlessly between values placed on the thing remembered and the community invested in remembering it.

As means of ritual redress, the activities associated with memorializing—building monuments, leaving offerings and tributes, creating or consuming art, emoting publicly—act to define and maintain conceptual relationships between life and death, remembering and forgetting, presence and absence, sanctity and secularity, immanence and transcendence, and individual feeling and public culture that blur the constructed lines between religious life and other forms of cultural meaning-making. Like religious belief, memory operates nominally as an individual/internal experience, but its mutual intelligibility between group believers entails agreements on such conceptual relationships, and on the terms that determine relevant public acts. This process of negotiation between individuals and their communities generates memorial acts and objects that are always-already composite products. That is, public/institutional memorials like the Lincoln Memorial maintain multiple meanings for multiple individual publics, all of whom may consider the site sacred for various reasons, while supposedly spontaneous memorial acts, understood popularly as deeply personal and individual expressions, often reflect a continuity and an intelligibility that suggest a scriptedness that perforates the interiority of personal memory.

Over the past three centuries, American memorials have taken a staggering number of forms and have served a wide variety of religious publics, but the suspicion that deep structures underlie that diversity persist. Americans build memorials to grieve their dead, hold parades to commemorate their government’s military victories, carve statues to celebrate their greatest citizens, and write songs for ordinary citizens they never met. Across generations, these behaviors do not merely express memories. In time, they work to create those memories by prescribing a stimulus and a response—a catechism—that teaches subsequent eras normative ways of thinking and feeling about events they never personally experienced. As ubiquitous as the act of memorializing appears across American culture, its sheer diversity as a category generates a certain amount of evasiveness when pursuing the core tenets of what counts as a memorial site, act, or object. This evasiveness bears out in a blossoming of scholarly conversation surrounding memorial culture, in a variety of interdisciplinary fields invoking discourses of trauma and nostalgia, public memory and political remembering, and marketplace analyses of American religious life. Each has advanced the study of performed, material, and shared expressions of memory—but the diversity of memorial acts eludes a unifying conceptual framework for assessing the materials, contexts, meanings, and practices that make up American memorial culture.

Like the scholarship that tracks them, memorial practices are diverse and sometimes only tenuously related. Just as theories of religion centered on meaning now confront the need for including meaninglessness in their scope, theories of memorialization as an expression of memory must account for institutional monument cultures and the attempts at master narratives they represent. Simultaneously, they must track the spontaneous, innovative, and populist components of other memorial activities. Memorialization involves a host of intentional and devotional behaviors, but also the contested, editorial, and devotionless secular in which that intent manifests. Often occupying the unstable position of existing within the culture they purport to reflect upon—providing both primary and secondary historical evidence of religious projects at work—memorials exist as products and producers of emotive complexes like patriotism and grief, relative not to an objective past but to the politically tended naturalization of that past. Their observation and maintenance generate material and economic impact that itself contributes to an understanding of American religious life. In memorial materials, the anxieties about death, loss, and forgetfulness find remedy in objects and habits that live, recover, and remember.

It is impossible to understand public religious life without reference to collective memorial action, and collective memorial action, in the grandest sense, invokes the language, values, and symbols of religious life in a civic setting. Public memory draws on religious ideas, but ultimately also functions as a set of religious practices itself, codifying ideas of the civic sacred. Following from Stier and Landres, the practice of religion cannot be disentangled from the ethics of memory. To practice religious behavior is to engage in public mnemonics, and to remember, in a culturally productive sense, is to practice religious behavior. Though the topical particulars and political value of that performance shift, the religiomnemonic practices of Americans maintain some constant qualities, including the enduring value of memorial spaces and activities.

In that regard, memorials both reflect historic events and are themselves historical actants. Tracking American religion—American public religion in particular—requires acknowledging that religious culture and memorial culture form mutually constitutive spheres in American life. The tension between personal/populist memory and institutional memory that works itself out through subsequent developments in American memorial culture offers vital analytical access to the reciprocities between religious behavior and American economics, nationalism and global affairs, social life, and feeling. Memorial behaviors and objects historically emerge from the values and needs of religious communities seeking to transcend forgetfulness and mortality, but increasingly those behaviors represent the processes of secularization pointed to by scholars of religion like Tracy Fessenden. From ceremonies of colonial possession to the changing of social-media profile photos in digital solidarity after a mass-trauma event, memorial activities reveal power relationships in their form and content, both shaping and reflecting the signs under which American religious identities and values emerge.

Memory and Mortality in the Colonies

Establishing identity, vesting authority, and mobilizing mutual intelligibility through practices centered on memory proved central to Spanish and English colonial projects from their earliest contacts with indigenous Americans. After reports from the first ships that the New World contained humans, the Spanish court exploded with speculation about the possibility, provoked by the fact that no other human communities find description in the Bible that had not already been accounted for long ago. Before the Spanish could determine the terms on which they interacted with indigenous Americans—and before they could determine the role these new agents could play in the religious-industrial colonial enterprise—the issue of their essential humanity required assessment. Both the memories of native peoples and those of the Spanish played a role in the debates that followed, and in the memorial practices that advanced their colonial politics.

Following Columbus’s reports of previously uncontacted humans in the New World, and of the uprisings his policies caused among them, the issue of native humanity demanded became a central obstacle. On the one hand, if these New World creatures were human, then they had souls and, in turn, were capable of redemption—and political-economic negotiations like trade. On the other, their total absence from any authoritative account of human origins suggested that they were merely apparently humanoid but ultimately soulless beasts, fit for service under Spanish dominion and nothing more. Solving the paired issues of their amnesia relative to Christendom, and Christendom’s amnesia regarding the New World, would dictate next steps for the conquistador and the priest alike: establishing the native capacity to accept Jesus stood to open an entire content of resources, but installing the encounter in the memories of both cultures became paramount.

The Requerimiento of 1513 purported to solve the issue of native ignorance with regard to Spanish Catholicism, providing encountered peoples with all the cosmological mnemonics necessary to establish essential intelligibility with their conquerors, and threatening them with mortal consequences for enduring hostility or noncompliance beyond the Spanish correction of their memorial errors. To remedy the utter gulf between native perceptions of origin and authoritative origins handed down through Catholic ontology, the Requerimiento portrayed colonial contact in a complete historical context. Intended to be read aloud to indigenous communities, the document describes the entirety of human experience from creation in a way that vests authority in the Spanish crown and the Pope, extends that authority to the present landing party relating the narrative, and presents the recipients with a choice. Having had their memories corrected and brought in line with what the Spanish saw as incontrovertible truth, American Indians faced a choice: convert to Christianity under the authority of the Spanish agents before them, while maintaining land rights and enjoying “many privileges and exemptions,” or resist and, in so doing, incur war, hardship, and obliteration as enemies of church and crown alike.

Beyond the conflict inherent in such an ultimatum, the practical reality of installing new memories through the ritual recitation of the Requerimiento revealed the ritual to be little more than a pretext to violence for those deploying it. Ostensibly capable of conferring humanity on its recipients by rendering them capable of making choices based on assent to a shared narrative past, in action the Requerimiento represented a total breakdown and a revelation of colonizers’ priorities. Read in Castilian without translation, often to beaches devoid of hearers or even from the bows of ships still hundreds of yards off the coast, the document functioned less to ritually offer shared memories than to recategorize native inhabitants as hostiles and heretics subject to total exploitation.

Within a decade of Spain’s adoption of the Requerimiento, the Protestant Reformation ignited and spread across Europe. Within a half century, the European colonial contest intersected with an existential-cosmological conflict that bore further influence on the memorial dimension of American spaces. If the recitations of contractual proclamations sought to replace native memories and to ritualize the acceptance of new ones, spatial nomenclature—the naming of places—became a new site of intra-European competition and a new ceremony of possession centered on sanctifying the memories of acts committed there. When French Huguenots established Fort Caroline on Florida’s Atlantic Coast in the summer of 1565, Spain dispatched Pedro Menendez de Aviles to rid New Spain of its Protestant interlopers. After sacking Fort Caroline, Menendez pursued the remaining French Protestants to an inlet just south of the new Spanish settlement of St. Augustine. At the mouth of the river, the Spanish general slaughtered 111 Frenchman who surrendered but who refused to convert. Two weeks later, they sprang the same trap, dispatching 134 additional French Protestants. The Spanish defined the site through the slaughters that happened there and consecrated the river with the Spanish word for “slaughters”: Matanzas.

The European race for colonial resources complicated Spain’s objectives, and between the Valladolid debates and the emergence of New France as a threat, relations with indigenous groups like the Timucua and the Apalachee took on a practical negotiability still underpinned by a demand for Catholic conversion and the universal adoption of the Castilian language and the folkways of its speakers. In particular, native practices designed (or supposed) to memorialize pre-Christian devotions proved intolerably contentious. None symbolized the Spanish desire to replace native memorials with Catholic ones greater than el juego de pelota, literally “the ball game,” which centered on a pole placed at the center of native communities across the coastal South and north into the Piedmont. Part athletic war-game, part cultural spectacle, part conflict-diffusion mechanism, and part ritual memorial, the Apalachee ball game survived under growing colonial governance through the height of the mission period. Despite the commonplace occurrence of broken bones and general mayhem that Spanish friars saw in the game, they permitted it for over a century. Only when the friars realized that the game served to play out and redress a pre-Christian drama of conflict origins—when they reclassified it as a pagan memorial act—did they demand its dissolution.

In September 1676, a priest at the north Florida mission of San Luis de Talimali prepared an investigative analysis of the ball game and the spiritual and physical threats he saw in it for the cultures who persisted in performing it. At length, Juan de Paiva establishes the ball game’s sporting and civic dimensions as indistinguishable from the central offense that its performance memorializes pre-Christian Apalachee chiefs named Ytonaslaq and Nicoguadca. Citing an Apalachee informant, de Paiva proclaims that “in his understanding, both are the names of demons, especially for Ytonaslaq.” De Paiva unites his ostensible concern for the players’ penchant for physical and spiritual violence in the memorial act of placing scalps at the foot of a pole that acts as a goalpost, which de Paiva later describes as “the ballpost of the devil.” In this act of memorializing Ytonaslaq, de Paiva laments to fellow friars and the Spanish crown, the Apalachee fuse a thirst for pagan spirituality with real human suffering, and the success of the mission system depends implicitly on the replacement of a suffering-based pagan memorial with one featuring a Catholic memorial to superhuman suffering. On de Paiva’s suggestion, missions throughout the Southeast began rewarding native leaders who took the initiative to replace their “ballposts of the devil” with large crucifixes. Whether in native gameplay or place names reflecting transplanted continental conflicts, the death of peoples and ideologies formed a key component to the memorial politics of New Spain.

As de Paiva and his compatriots fought the ball game, New England Puritans expressed their own concerns about death through memorial practices. For the Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the nearness and universality of human mortality shaped core memorial work, sanctifying pastness and prescribing present responses in ways that persisted through the English colonial enterprise, the American Revolution, and into the bedrock of first-generation American patriotism. As an emblem of Pierre Nora’s claim that “self-consciousness emerges under the sign of that which has already happened,” Puritan memorial practices reveal signs to be as important as the already-happened events they memorialize.

Unlike Spanish correspondence concerned with the economic assessments of America’s indigenous inhabitants, the writings produced in the Massachusetts Bay Colony reflected a textual epistemology typical of English Protestantism and the Calvinist compulsion to render all human activity a perpetual historical-memorial reflection on the inevitability of death. In reflecting on the stories of suffering and death endured by their compatriots and forebears, New England colonists sidestepped the too-Catholic nature of image-rich memorials, instead leaving those images in the prayerful minds of readers and hearers. Like other forms of worship, Puritan memorials operate as discursive programs, as activities realized through the transmission of words. As Boston’s print culture developed, Puritan historical writing served to regulate and standardize that transmission. Furthermore, those standard memories became an opportunity to highlight the endurance of spirit and the coeternal inevitability and transcendability of death. Despite a topical uninterest in graven images and materiality, one materially practical way in which prominent New England Puritans approached godliness was through memorial biography. Memorial sanctity becomes a matter, as with the gospels themselves, of the stories people tell in the faith that the dead have transcended death.

Alternatively, Puritan habits of writing and speaking also served to contextualize religious crises and social trauma in a supernatural framework that, while still focusing on death, demonstrated other approaches to the meaning of enduring death with the right spiritual commitments. If Puritan martyr-books draw memorial attention to the presence of Christian fortitude in the face of innate sin and inescapable death, and the implicit command for readers and hearers to incorporate those lessons into their own penitent lives, other historical works focused on the sensational precariousness of Puritan souls at the precipice of oblivion. No author did more to embrace both approaches to memorial writing than Cotton Mather, whose 1693 Wonders of the Invisible World committed the Salem witch trials to public memory—to a standardized retelling with implicit emphases, priorities, and blind spots—through a different kind of cautionary tale. Such was the centrality of death to Puritan life, that the celebratory remembrance of exceptional lives and the solemn not-forgetting of sin-maddened existences took the same textual-narrative form, and to the same end of maintaining memory as an invitation to contemplate grace.

In the case of the jeremiad, an investigation of one’s present state necessitated memorial reflection and soteriological anticipation that fused religious and political concerns. Ahead of the unrest that birthed the American Revolution, New England ministers focused their preaching on the regular and regulating interpretation of present-moment dissatisfaction with prior sins, tailored often to governmental processes like elections. As a religiopolitical rhetorical system, the jeremiad portends the ways later generations would structure memory at a collective level and inspire individual-emotional and collective-behavioral responses to recast memories. Jeremiad sermons in Puritan New England followed formal structures and formed intelligible templates that determined the value of interpreting the past specifically with regard to actions on the part of hearers. The jeremiad formula of foregrounding new presentations of political positions, party advocacy, or candidate support with scriptural wisdom made clear the essential unity of political and religious wisdom, to the point of dictating direct action as a means of responding appropriately to singular religiopolitical truth. From 19th-century panoramists to the 20th-century KKK, fusing religious and political memory to effect present-moment change represents a faith-based cornerstone of American public memorial culture.

Though Puritans nominally rejected image-rich worship in favor of written memorials and prescriptive spoken histories, their memorial practices represent a material rescinding of that rejection. In their permanence, gravestones represented a physical change in social space designed to evoke memory, whether personally of the deceased or categorically of their decession, and to prescribe action on the part of living. The skulls-and-bones visual vocabularies of Puritan gravestones served as stimuli that refreshed viewers’ cognizance of death, but as the survival rate for New England individuals and communities rose, and as new charismatic movements like Wesley’s Methodism formed new emotional templates for the performance and interpretation of the American self, gravestones and other memorial efforts shifted vocabularies as well. Where death once represented an inevitable end common to all humanity, the promise of eternal life through spiritual improvement recast death as a potential beginning. Instead of cause for universal submission, death became, in the 18th century, a cause for recontextualizing the dead as individuals striving to conquer death, and their gravestones and eulogies became a site for distinguishing new, sentimental forms of Christianity from their predestinarian forebears. Materially, gravestone skulls grew wings, and images of transcendent spirits replaced or stood alongside familiar icons of physical decay.

New Sacred Origins and New Ritual Memories for a New Nation

With independence from Britain, America’s political preoccupation with new beginnings suited its diverse spiritual pursuits of spiritual new life. Especially in the former English colonies, the search for origins as a means of contextualizing those new beginnings proved complicated. From John Winthrop onward, religious reformers in America sought to build a New England, but after the war, the new states found themselves more concerned with their newness than their Englishness. Many 18th-century Americans and their 19th-century descendants replaced that ruptured point of historical origin with a new spiritual umbilicus, seeing the New World not as New England, but as a New Jerusalem. The memorial rhetorics of American spiritual origin had for 150 years rested on both England and Jerusalem, but after the revolution new rituals formalized the severance of America and England and advocated variously for lineages through French and Athenian democracy and biblical cosmology, mixed with memorials intended to stitch the present-moment events of American independence into a new timeline of origins. Politicians and an emergent American media culture shifted focus to change conversations and behaviors alike and, in the process, created new rituals that encouraged forgetfulness where England was concerned, and new attention to the Holy Land.

In political terms, memorial concern for American independence emerged alongside that independence in time and space, and the issues of timing and the performative use of space factored into how the Framers saw their role in history and memory. John Adams maintained that July 2nd, not July 4th, represented the true point of origin for the American experiment, as it consecrated the day on which the Continental Congress voted to approve Richard Henry Lee’s resolution affirming independence from England. For years, Adams refused to memorialize American independence on July 4th, as it prioritized the assembly’s approval of the Declaration of Independence and, by extension, Thomas Jefferson’s elevated role in the nation’s birth.

In the earliest years of the American Revolution, the shift from a focus on death to new life, and away from England as a point of profane origin, played out in popular memorials that replaced birthday celebrations for King George III with mock funerals that upended his reign, following in a long tradition of theological hilaritas, essential goodness that regards evil as nothing to be taken seriously. Following Adams’s hopes as expressed in a letter to Abigail, many new Americans celebrated independence through annual rituals and memorial observances involving parades, parties, speeches, and the discharge of firearms, even as firearms continued their role in the as-yet-unfinished battle for that independence. In 1781, Massachusetts installed July 4th as the first state-sanctioned civic holy day, months before victory at Yorktown validated the act.

Picking up where jeremiad sermons had left off, America’s media culture played a key role in advancing the new nation’s rhetorical self-conception as a living memorial to biblical wisdom. As a space where the Kingdom of God could be fulfilled, America necessarily bore a functional resemblance to Jerusalem, the place where that kingdom was first promised. In particular, the exhibition of Holy Land panorama paintings became an important ritual in which Americans contemplated implied, politically tended memories concerning national provenance. Especially after the war of 1812, the ensuing decades saw a new physical and imaginary reciprocity between America and Jerusalem, with Americans traveling to the Holy Land in greater numbers, panorama artists returning to offer an inverted pilgrimage of origins to audiences at home, and scientists and scholars like Robert Morris sending home chests of artifacts and memorial souvenirs that functioned simultaneously as keepsakes, artifacts, and relics.

Holy Land panoramas succeeded in the 1830s and 1840s in ways that frontier depictions failed. While frontier images introduced heretofore-unseen lands, mural scrolls from Old Jerusalem fit seamlessly into an extant discourse that composed the New Jerusalem. Western images enjoyed little context compared to the memorial imaginary that equipped Americans to see themselves both as a new fulfillment of providence and as a metaphorical reflection of the initial, Mosaic providence offered to the Israelites. To enrich the implanted memory of having visited the Levant, panoramists often implanted themselves into their scenes and supplementing visual sensations with music, lectures, and printed materials like pamphlets. All of these materials and experiences served to stitch the experience of beholding an unfurled panorama as an experience in entertainment, but also of one that scripted memories of pilgrimage.

Trauma and Memorial Unity from Hallowed Ground to Hollywood

While citizens in faster-urbanizing northern cities embraced New Jerusalem consciousness, the so-called Seminole Wars raged in the Florida peninsula. Just as the Spanish had centuries before, Americans there reflected their triumphs and tragedies through the memorial recognition of place names. Rather than installing acts of slaughter, however, the American frontier became known as civilized space through places named for military martyrs. Following the battle between Forts King and Brooke that ignited the Second Seminole War, counties and cities named for fallen Major Francis Dade popped up at the perimeter of America’s spaces, translating human losses into transcendent spatial gains.

The ways in which Civil War memorialization differed between Northern and Southern polities detonated a unity of anything resembling public memory by simultaneously revealing discursively simple cultural structures like “public memory” as a tenuous, operative consensus belonging to and deployed by multiple publics. As they entered, conducted, and emerged from the War Between the States, Northern and Southern communities diverged in ways they used memories to justify, motivate, and sanctify their decisions. Moving forward, they distinguished themselves by committing alternative facts to memory, using the familiar mechanics of martyr biography and place naming.

Maps rendered memorable these divergences, conferring and vested with authority by settling through inscription the contestedness of contested spaces. The Confederacy enacted a national cosmology based on human activity, naming its wars (and organizing its soldiers’ sacrifices and victories) according to nearby settlements and cities, whereas the Union often identified battles by nearby landforms like rivers. By mapping the landscape and deliberately deploying, respectively, mutually exclusive names like “Manassas” and “Bull Run,” both sides moved forward with a record-keeping and memory-making nomenclature that rendered the enemy’s understanding of the American landscape simultaneously profane and unmemorable.

Northerners and Southerners alike marshaled Scripture to the end of supporting diverse and exclusive ends concerning the perpetuation of slavery as a human institution and the rationale for defending it with organized violence. After the war, the material consequences of that violence required ritual redress that varied regionally alongside lines drawn through four years of competing worldviews. Cutting across political lines were the war dead: whether CSA or USA, graves of all sizes dotted the landscape where the dead who filled them had fallen, and their omnipresence demanded an accounting that rendered neither their deaths, nor their lands, senseless. Increasingly, the experience that bonded the American public was a shared experience of loss and the practical ubiquity of funerals. By late 1863, Washington, DC, had exhausted its capacity to inter its dead, and the following May, Private William Christman was laid to rest outside the city, on George Washington Parke Custis’s Arlington Plantation. Itself a memorial to the presidential grandfather for whom Custis was named, Arlington became a national cemetery in June 1864.

Seeking to codify that shared sense of loss in a memorial event that focused and bound a nation of mourners, General John Logan decreed in 1868 that Americans deserved a day “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” In his language, however, Logan makes clear the observance’s political import: by calling, as leader of the Grand Army of the Republic, only for the decoration of the graves belonging to “comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion,” Logan’s proclamation disregards Confederate soldiers, who were the rebellion. Grieving and desolated Southerners perceived this attempt at unification as one of overt division, and for decades afterward, most Southern communities honored their war dead on other dates until the losses incurred during the First World War defibrillated regional experiences of grief. As the date expanded from honoring the valor of the Civil War’s dead and the grief of their survivors to recognize all fallen American soldiers, and as its practices expanded from gravesite decorations to other places and practices, popular activity prompted institutional changes, and in 1967, Lyndon Johnson officially declared Memorial Day as a Federally recognized sacred time of commemoration.

If the Civil War traumatized the nation by creating schisms in its memories and the feelings aroused in the ritual acts of memorializing, that trauma manifested materially in the physical form of its definitive 19th-century monument. Begun in 1848, the Washington Monument’s construction was put on hold for the duration of the war, and in its aftermath, the monument’s construction languished for over a decade before work resumed. When workers began sourcing raw materials to resume in 1876, the supply of stone originally used in the twenty-eight-year-old base had been exhausted, requiring builders to source a slightly off-color supply elsewhere. From its 1884 completion, a faint line between white and slightly yellow stone reads like a scar across the monument to America’s first president, materially registering the schismatic timeline in national consciousness created by the war.

As the 20th century approached, Union veterans sought to extend their memorial reach beyond sacred times like Decoration Day into consecrating the burial grounds where their comrades lay and the battlegrounds where they fought. To complement national memorial recognition of cemeteries, Congress approved the nation’s first four military parks before 1900, and its choices, again, provided more information about the North’s interest in prioritizing war memories. Of Gettysburg, Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chickamauga, the latter three sites lay deep within the areas of the South only lately released from Radical Reconstruction, and Gettysburg marked a turning point toward retaining the integrity of the Union.

The South’s fission from the North resulted in a new, schismatic timeline, complete with its own memories. The experience of invoking God’s favor in defense of what many Southern Christians saw as sanctified lifeways rendered real defeat a non-option. Seeking contexts for understanding the political and social reality of a Union victory, Confederate sympathizers developed their own sacred memorial discourse that couched the CSA’s loss in a framework of greater cosmic import, designating the North’s victory as a penultimate phantasm and as a harbinger or dispensation only bringing the South closer to a holier, more ultimate victory. By installing and operating a memorial apparatus that denied any ontologically real loss, Southerners made their way from the Old South to the New as advocates of the Lost Cause, rendering them ideologically impervious to prevailing attitudes concerning the memorialization of the war.

Lost Cause thinking, in which the Union’s victory symbolized a merely earthly reward while Confederates awaited theodical justice, later entered American popular consciousness through the first feature-length film, D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, whose director affixed to his project a demand for popular audiences to install his film and its ideology in its memorial and patriotic reflections at a level befitting the Bible itself. As the worst of the Jim Crow–era–produced policies designed to delimit the new freedoms enjoyed by African Americans, anxious white people nationwide embraced its drama and pageantry, leading even President Woodrow Wilson to ascribe promethean genius to the film, describing it as “writing history with lightning” and complaining that “my only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” In America’s uncritical embrace of the new narrative medium of film, audiences portended the 20th century’s memorial transformations at the hand of entertainment media.

Memorial Activity in the Progressive and Postwar Eras

As new as it might have appeared in the first decades of the 20th century, film’s function reflected centuries of authoritative, rhetorical-religious memorializing. In many ways, the business of building monuments, sanctifying spaces, and prescribing memorial habits and feelings endured into the interwar years as the distinctive province of churches and the Federal government. After contributing critically to the ending of the First World War and its subsequent emergence as a modern superpower, the federal government’s agencies seemed uniquely capable of undertaking some memorial projects, and in the Progressive Era, Republicans in particular pursued the preservation and conservation of America’s natural resources as a memorial project in its own right. After a generation of activity, groups like John Muir’s Sierra Club found favor with Teddy Roosevelt and subsequent administrations, and in 1916 Congress passed the National Park Service Organic Act, setting aside millions of acres as sacred space evocative of Edenic promise.

Just as place names, cemetery and battleground designations, and parade routes had seasoned Americans’ memories of their land, the new push for national parks and monuments concerned sanctification of the land as a means of not-forgetting the topography of national ideological and physical origins. The interwar years saw no shortage of monumental memorial endeavors. During the late Progressive era and through the Great Depression, many exemplary American monuments emerged, including the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. Finished in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial’s design set the stage for a new kind of authoritative, unilateral temple to American memory. After entering and helping to decide the outcome of the First World War, America’s newfound military-industrial, economic, and cultural productivity offered new opportunities to recast its rise as both providential and classical, on par with the greatest civilizations of any era. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, American monument building in the early 20th century revealed a national soft spot for the religious ideals evident in Greek civic and temple spaces. Much like Griffith’s request that feature films receive the same memorial valuation as the Bible, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials demand in their design languages a not only consideration of American values and history, but also a comparison with the values and history of great cultures of the past.

Divided into a trinity of northern, southern, and central chambers, the Lincoln Memorial symbolically espouses the American sacred ideal of postwar centrism. Placing the eponymous statue in the latter chamber confers equality on and forms a middle ground between the powers that opposed each other in the Civil War, and whose integrity Lincoln’s leadership helped recover. In a metamemorial reference, the southern chamber includes the words Lincoln spoke at the consecration of Gettysburg National Cemetery, while the text of his second inaugural address resides in the walls of the northern chamber, aligned directionally with the states that reelected him. Built to resemble the Athens Parthenon, the columned structure housing a larger-than-life graven image of Lincoln represents a transformation of American attitudes removed at length from the Puritan warnings about death’s finality and toward a vision of America as the perfection not only of Jerusalem, but also of Athens and Rome, and as a living memorial to the best of all humankind. Naturally, this nationalism lends itself to authoritative inscription and unilateral instruction in sharing standard memories.

Following the Second World War, living well became a memorial mode insofar as postwar leisure embodied and perpetuated the reasons why so many Americans had fought and died. Inflected as it was with the theological air of perfectionism, the popular acceptance of living well as a valid memorial to sacrifice also accelerated the exposure of civic and racial inequality in a nation allegedly with no battles left to fight. Increasingly, the physical sites of monuments played background to the negotiation of those inequalities and to the redress of falsely democratic memories. In the case of the Lincoln Memorial, Lincoln’s significance to his enslaved and freedmen contemporaries of color persisted as a powerful symbol in subsequent generations of descendants, and in the memorial itself, African Americans found a powerful tool capable of being marshaled to the enduring cause of freedom. When the Daughters of the American Revolution first offered, then rescinded, an invitation to famed contralto Marian Anderson to perform in Constitution Hall, the singer worked with the NAACP to secure a broadcast performance on the steps of the Memorial. As one of the few black artists of the era to enjoy a broad integrated audience, Anderson’s performance, particularly through the iconic photography that emerged, drew on the visual power of juxtaposing herself with the Lincoln Memorial in much the same way that the Memorial’s designers drew on the time-conquering quality of classical aesthetics to afford Lincoln himself some portion of timeless authority, suggesting circumstantially that Anderson’s cause for equal recognition as an artist echoes the very concerns that earned Lincoln a stone temple.

The Lincoln Memorial now enjoys historical significance in its own right, as a kind of meta-memorial engine associated with events held on its steps as much as for the ideas inscribed in its walls. The critical and reflective qualities of memorials, supposed to reflect on a past of which those memorials are not a part, reside instead well within the ebb and flow of the same historical events they commemorate. In popular consciousness, no discussion of the Lincoln Memorial endures long without reference to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s address to participants in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. With rhetorical and historical nods to the Emancipation and the Gettysburg Address, King sermonized the motivations initially responsible for the Memorial by refreshing them as motivations that deserved continued and ongoing public application. Going beyond the pageantry of the site itself, King drew on its content to suggest that the demand and the receipt of civil and racial justice represented their own kinds of memorial aims.

Responding to King’s speech in the pages of the New York Times, James Reston touched on a powerful component responsible for stitching it into the national memory at a functional level: “better covered by television and the press than any event here since President Kennedy’s inauguration,” the March on Washington reflected the new prominence of television as a means for large groups of Americans to share experiences and, thereby, to form common (if vicarious) memories. Where Griffith’s Birth of a Nation installed cinema as a new means of conducting the old work of top-down memorializing, television reflected a new memorial populism, fitting standard recollections of recorded, global events into the lived productions of personal memory. In the months and years that followed, television viewership became a key means of organizing experiential time and the oral/conversational dimension of popular memorial exchanges. Whether through the images of Walter Cronkite solemnly removing his glasses or through the later release of Abraham Zapruder’s footage, many Americans remember learning of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination or even seeing it happen, despite being too young to have done so organically. The discussion of those standard recollections quickly descends into locative memorial recollection. In the decades that followed, narrating the personal memories that surrounded mass-media events became a popular mechanism of memorializing the popular end of history-changing events. Like the media cultures that draw on them for power, memorial sites produce intelligible memory by standardizing and contextualizing experiences, offering visual and haptic rhetorics that generate community through consent to common meanings.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Populism of Contest

With democratized (albeit semi-standardized and mediated) access to instant visual and auditory information, Americans saw multiple meanings in developments like the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Moreover, the contestedness of memory challenged the centuries-old standard practices of institutional memory. Rather than destroying old modes, contest and dissent instead bolstered and transformed the process of monument making. No single monument did more to usher in a new, open-ended populism in memorial behavior than the creation of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Located just off the Lincoln Memorial grounds, the Vietnam Memorial bore little resemblance in development or design to its famous neighbor, despite representing an attempt to accomplish a common goal of conferring permanence on Americans’ shared memories. Where monuments had expressed religious values for generations, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial signaled a new era of secularizing those values, and the devotional responses evoked by memorial materials and sites.

Funded through private donations and designed by twenty-one-year-old Yale student Maya Lin after her selection from over 1,400 design contest entrants, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial drew vocal criticism over its formal deviation from past efforts to memorialize America’s war dead. In their opposition, officials revealed emotional regulation and meaning making as core functions in the history of American monuments, locating the wrongness of Lin’s design in its arousal of inappropriate emotions, its paradoxically meaningless ideology, or even its unconventional color: speaking to U.S. News and World Report, one official famously described the memorial as “a black gash of shame,” while James Webb expressed disbelief in what he called “a nihilist slab of stone.” In both cases, critics drew on historic languages of religious profanity, whether through emotional rhetorics of shame or epistemological-cosmological vacancies like nihilism. Their intended point was clear: the Vietnam Veterans Memorial failed as a memorial because it did not meet or map onto the affective-intellectual framework familiar to audiences who had previously found war memorials so meaningful—citizens mourning the dead through centuries-old Protestant and post-Puritan frameworks.

Eschewing that temple rhetoric that informed the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials and opting against traditional military sword-and-steed monuments, Lin’s design involves a “v” of engraved black gabbro walls with terminals facing the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Beginning at a height of just over a half foot, each wall grows to meet the other at a height of ten feet, initially with the names of 57,939 fallen servicemen and servicewomen engraved into the black stone. Polished to a deep gloss, Lin intended visitors to see themselves literally in the names of the dead, connecting visitors and pilgrims to the monument in ways they had only been spoken to by previous memorials. With no interpretive dedication, the sheer volume of names and the unfamiliar structure place interpretive weight on visitors, to which they responded even before the memorial’s construction wrapped up. Encouraged to ascribe their own meanings to its form, visitors began leaving tributes and offerings spontaneously, ranging from the medals of those whose names line the wall to motorcycles, stuffed animals, flowers, and candles. Visitors to the site also began leaving with their own mementos in the form of pencil rubbings, transferring the permanence of an inscribed name into a transportable form that accompanied mourners as they left, physically incorporating the memorial site into their lives and reciprocally incorporating their behaviors into its function: today, dedicated stations with pencils and paper exist at each end of the wall, encouraging visitors to make rubbings as a new ritual model for popular interaction with institutional memorials.

In time, objections to and popular conversation surrounding the memorial led to a Soldiers Memorial that both supplements and complements the Veterans Memorial. The wall’s unconventional codes of expression begat a new generation of memorial installations, some commemorating events deeper in American history. When it opened in 1992, two hundred years after the event it commemorates, the Salem Witch Trials Memorial bore, in its conceptual expression and its unconventional uses of stone, an inheritance from Lin’s challenge to memorial vocabulary. At the same time, the Salem memorial mobilized Lin’s secularized monumentalism to address the memories of a specific community of religious Americans adopted, through the nostalgic language of American pilgrim worship, by the entire nation. Indeed, Lin’s achievement pushed the relationship of religion and civic identity in American monument culture in all directions, offering new secularized vocabularies to religious communities and offering access to religious intelligibility to otherwise civic polities.

1993 saw the opening of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which accelerated the new mode of popular memorial participation through inviting museumgoers to embrace the identity of an individual Holocaust victim, interpreting artifacts and stories at a personal level before learning at the end of the galleries whether the victim to whose existence they had been introduced survived or succumbed. Responsive to the needs of Jewish Americans and postwar immigrants, the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s presence in Washington, DC, spoke at once to the need for civic recognition of religious communities’ memorial habits and to the nation’s need to remember its own role in the histories of its religious communities. America’s role in the end of the Holocaust is both a religious and a civic-political fact, and its memorial institution, in both form and content, bears that dual significance.

Unlike previous generations of memorial installations and behaviors, the 1980s and 1990s saw a new priority placed on personal connections to large-scale traumatic events, resisting the simplicity of master narratives and inviting visitors to take an active role in the work of institutional memorialization. This new openness to complexity yielded some surprising meta-emotional results, as with the reemergence of military reenactment, particularly regarding Civil War reenactments. Inflected with the leisurely pursuit of a hobby, the culture of Civil War reenactment represented a new expression of nostalgia for an otherwise traumatic event, with reenactments taking the form of picnics and festivals, ensconcing the Civil War in battlefield pageants as much as in battlefield cemeteries. Materially, these practical commemorations yielded unexpected economic changes, such as the emergence of markets for synthetically authentic reproduction materials not as counterfeits but as commemorative homages whose value extended to their use and even to their ritual consumption, as with the late-20th-century emergence of a marketplace for long-gone staples like hardtack.

This trend toward “living history” of the premodern era, and the nostalgia motivating it, also yielded the awkward consequence of reproducing trauma in indigestibly nostalgic complexes, rendering institutions like slavery, racism, and nationalism as subjects incapable of address. In the 21st century, Azie Mira Dungey, an interpretive actress at the Mount Vernon historic plantation, codified these awkward consequences through the “Ask A Slave” project, dissecting the limits of living history as a means of sourcing primary knowledge about the past, and as capable of advancing present and future intolerance by determining the limits of how past intolerances receive commemoration.

Populism, Spontaneity, Remediation, and Mass Tragedy

From Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to Ted Turner’s authorization to film the 1993 war epic Gettysburg within the confines of the eponymous memorial park and using the enthusiastic labor of individual reenactment hobbyists, the second half of the 20th century saw new, popular sanctifications of memorial spaces once defined by institutional action. Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial redefined even the institutional conception of memorial monuments and spawned its own new applications of memorial architecture at places like Salem, rendering Mather’s “invisible world” into one literally (and unforgettably) made of stone. These new memorial projects opened up the institutional/popular discourse of remembering in new ways. Creating to remedy loss need not be merely the responsibility of governing bodies, nor of religious communities. At its worst, leaving the responsibility of memorializing to leadership results in an amnesiac reaction to the traumas and victories ignored by those memorializing institutions. If the Progressive Era represented a pat, monumental process for exploring “public memory,” the Civil Rights Movement—coupled with the attacks on public trust and believability spawned by the Watergate scandal—empowered a host of multiple and overlapping publics to advance their own modes of material memory. In both form and content, new memorial activities changed and challenged dominant modes of remembering even if the core project of prescribing new behaviors by contemplating past ones remained. Moving from a kind of civic-religious Platonism to a secularized Aristotelian multivocality, the late 20th century saw Americans trusting themselves to craft new material languages of material meaning.

New memorial materials not only remedied social abjection or religious profanity, but also reinscribed the debate between biological determinism and theodicy. Conceived in 1985 and begun two years later, the AIDS Memorial Quilt project took a different material tack at a time when the government’s confused and incomplete response to the AIDS epidemic, tinged with Calvinist fatalism, left its victims shunned and dehumanized. Disowned by family members and banned by funeral homes who saw in an AIDS diagnosis an unholy affliction, many victims in the first years of the crisis received no conventional memorial or funerary rites, placing them beyond the reach of their own religious beliefs. More than an absence of memorial activity, the popular reaction to AIDS involved active forgetting. Insofar as funerals are a thing humans receive, not receiving one reciprocally spoke to the inhumanity of the victim in the eyes of prospective mourners.

To quilt creator Cleve Jones, remembering victims meant undertaking the complementary task of establishing their humanity and, beyond that, their social familiarity as friends, lovers, siblings, children, and parents, which, categorically, participate in human domestic life. A quilt redressed that inhumanity by providing an essentially domestic object as a site for memorial creativity and, with grave-sized panels for each victim, provided an opportunity for friends and family to mourn in ways that otherwise might have accompanied funerals. The quilt’s domesticity contrasted with its overwhelming size: at its initial unveiling, the AIDS Memorial Quilt included 1,920 panels for individual victims, each designed separately to reflect the personality or life of the deceased or to express the grief of his/her survivors. The following year, the quilt’s innovative portability enabled a nationwide exhibition tour. At each stop, communities added their own expressions of loss, grief, camaraderie, and hope to the project.

In the absence of cultural recognition, the communities affected by AIDS exercised the capacity to drive memorialization outside those channels, by embracing portability over permanence, achieving unity by accounting for diversity, and driving institutional change through popular performance. As the Memorial Quilt grew, so did popular empathy for neighbors, friends, and family members who received news of an AIDS diagnosis. By driving fundraising efforts for service organizations focused on humane treatment and care, individual responses to the quilt conferred humanity on the people commemorated in its panels and prescribed humanity for the people at risk of joining them. Now the largest piece of folk art in the world comprising over 49,000 panels, the AIDS Memorial Quilt became a social gospel of domestic-and-domesticating work that tracked the historical reality of the lives it remembers: gay, straight, rich, poor, famous, friendless, Christian, atheist, and, above all, memorably human.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial

By humanizing AIDS victims, the AIDS Memorial Quilt reflected the essential memorial act of storing and disseminating information. In the nascent Information Age, some media technologies provided more context than others. The era between the emergence of satellites and the widespread transformations of the internet, one of the largest drivers of memorial change proved to be cable news, which not only disseminated images and video of traumatic events, but also transformed how people saw and participated in memorial activity. When Timothy McVeigh’s homemade truck bomb exploded outside the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, cable news services carried images of devastation to all corners of the nation and the world, with reports of 168 dead in the days that followed. Like AIDS, the bombing represented a domestic trauma, and its victims were familiar: bosses, family members, and friends, and the spontaneous memorial activity that emerged afterward reflected that connection. Unfortunately, its perpetrator also appeared categorically familiar: white, male, conservative, and a member of the military, twisting extant scripts for how to remember. As others had at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Oklahoma City residents began leaving funerary offerings of flowers, candles, letters, and other objects outside the fence framing in the bombing site.

With reports emerging that the death toll included nineteen children, memorial oblations of stuffed animals, baby shoes, and other items reflective of childhood emerged not just at the site, but also in the broadcasts of national and international cable news agencies and the condemnations offered by ecclesiastical and secular leaders. Memorializing the site became a national devotional, with people making cross-country pilgrimages to leave items at the site and making artifacts of the fence itself. As committees convened weeks later to begin discussions of a memorial project, popular ownership of the event’s memory, and its existence outside standard vocabularies for mass-trauma military monuments, resulted in tense discussions over the political meanings of inscriptions and words used to incorporate the effort. Instead of receiving memorial scripts in material form from cultural institutions, the bombing’s victims, survivors, and others affected helped steer the forms those institutional responses took. Unveiled on the fifth anniversary of the bombing, the Oklahoma City Memorial marked a new secular populism in redressing the site’s destruction through several architectural components.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial’s inscription demarcates three essential human categories relative to the bombing: “those who were killed, those who survived, and those changed forever.” Each category finds representation on the memorial’s grounds, from the empty chairs populating the building site to the Survivor Tree, once favored by employees for its shade but preserved as a living remnant of the ordinary life forced into the extraordinariness of survival, and final the reflections of visitors both in the reflecting pool’s surface and in the material deposits left at the now-permanent fence.

Memorializing 9/11

The first American mass-trauma event after the widespread adoption of the internet, the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001, also involved a terrorist attack on American soil. While cable news had accelerated its capacity to report on breaking news, the delayed impact of each of the four planes meant that immediate coverage resulted in large numbers of Americans watching the attack as it happened. Crowded around televisions in living rooms and offices around the nation, the delayed instantness of the WTC attacks recalibrated personal memory, collective experience, and the conjoined rhetorics of American civic and religious exceptionalism. In the hours and days that followed, the process of sanctifying the sites—and the process of damning the perpetrators and the eschatologies that motivated them—emerged even as rescue and recovery efforts endured. For many Americans, redressing the seeming senselessness and nihilism of the destruction took the form of finding meaning in the images that emerged. Thomas Franklin’s photo “Raising the Flag at Ground Zero,” first published in the Bergen County Record, encoded the essential and central memorial act of confronting loss by persisting in meaningful activity, shot through with the civil-religious feelings aroused by the flag itself and the uniformed FDNY rescuers raising it. As a ceremony of repossession, the raising of the American flag authorized citizens to see moving forward as a patriotic memorial duty.

In the immediate absence of a memorial as rescue efforts turned to site cleanup, American economic values rose to meet the need for material expressions of resilience. On television screens and website banners, a new market for memorial products emerged. Coins, statuettes, and “these colors don’t run” bumper stickers became new relics of American material secularism, commemorating the WTC attack and prescribing nationalist aggression going forward. The same year that President George W. Bush mobilized that popular yen for retributive violence by sending military forces into Iraq under the Manichaean auspices of dispatching “evildoers,” the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation opened a design competition for a memorial at the World Trade Center site. The winning design, titled “Reflecting Absence,” fills the original locations of the towers with large reflecting pools recessed 30 feet below plaza level, with names engraved around the edges of waterfalls that line the pools.

As with the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the winning 9/11 design represented a professionalization and a secularization—a Weberian rationalization—of standard memorial processes begun in the wake of Maya Lin’s winning design for the Vietnam Memorial. Oklahoma City and 9/11 both were designed by architectural firms who submitted designs to large-scale competitions receiving hundreds of entries. Likewise, sites for Oklahoma City and 9/11 accounted for another novel artifact of increasing professionalization governing the processes of memorial maintenance: interpretive museums. Both museums represent a professionalized accretion around the unscripted actions and reactions of trauma and grief, vesting curators and conservators with the interpretive weight of scripting new narrative memories. Collecting, preserving, and interpreting each formalizes different components through museum work, acting as a meta-referential ritual that tracks both the initial trauma event and the community’s spontaneous response in an educational effort that is itself a devotional-memorial product.

Mother Emanuel, Pulse, and New Intersectional Ecumenism of Memorializing

In the first two decades of the 21st century, gun violence moved to the forefront of conjoined memorial-religious activity. As contemporary drivers of that activity, mass-trauma events open up new ways of observing the mechanisms of public religion and public memory at work. Unlike extratemporal implied memories to long-ago wars, the new face of memorialization bears political contest at material and behavioral levels. Rather than expressing a univocal consensus, these events and the memorial acts that follow them expose the contests involved in, but naturalized out of, ongoing habits in American cultural life. Where monumental memory once instructed through inheritance or imposition, mass-trauma events and memorials in the 21st century lay bare the conjoined processes of remembering and forgetting, sanctification and profanation, and the establishments of human identity through the material redress of presence and absence. Like other aspects of American religion, American memorial processes have democratized. Though perhaps never not the case, the theoretical-historical relationship of religion and memory is clearer than ever: “the religious” and “the memorial” form two dimensions of American life, but religious meanings and memorial habits also work themselves out as related historical domains as well. That is, religious concepts inform memorial habits, but the historical phenomenon of religious behavior also forms the object and influences the tone of historical memorial activities.

When white supremacist Dylann Roof selected Charleston, South Carolina’s, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for a massacre of African-American worshippers, he did so in part because of the site’s long history as a living memorial to African-American Christian resilience in the face of racial violence. The site’s intersectional nature created conflicting news reports, with talking heads suggesting Roof had attacked a church in an anti-Christian hate crime, while others expressed outrage at the act of racial forgetting perpetrated through muting of racial motivations, specifically Roof’s hope for his own apotheosis as the instigator of an active race war. In reality, the Emanuel AME site forms a target simultaneously coded as racial and religious, and its meanings as a site of memory subdivide further in terms of the groups for whom the site codes those meanings.

Memorial activity and religious symbolism suffuse not only the American cultural landscape, but also the American people’s emergent self-awareness of the presence and optics of memorial objects populating that landscape. After details of Roof’s attack and its motivations emerged, mourners left flowers, art, and other offerings at the church site, but others took their memorial activity to the South Carolina State House, where the Confederate flag continued to fly. On Saturday, June 27, 2015, ten days after Roof’s attack, Bree Newsome climbed the flagpole at the State House and removed the Confederate flag, only hours before a competing parade sought to commemorate its presence. Though she was arrested and the flag was again placed atop the pole, her act galvanized the flag’s opponents and marked a countermemorial protest challenging the flag as a means of memorializing the victims of the Charleston Church Shooting. By July 10, the government agreed to remove the flag. While the removal did not change the state’s historical role in the Civil War for either its supporters or its detractors, the demand for the flag’s removal represented a political mechanism for changing the material terms on which that history is commemorated at the level of statecraft.

Controversies over Confederate symbols emerged in 2017 as a predominant flashpoint in the struggle to establish mnemonic norms and appropriate objects of memorial behavior. Organizations like Black Lives Matter point to the removal of Confederate iconography from public spaces as a viable means of remembering the deaths and lives of African American citizens like Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, and Michael Brown, mobilizing discourses surrounding the sanctity of life and the fundamental injustice of murder. Meanwhile, Confederates invert those discourses of injustice through a language predicated on the essential criminality of people who find themselves opposed to the institutions of the justice system, pointing to Confederate visual rhetorics in a kind of modern jeremiad, contextualizing the rupturing of race relations as a general cultural declension reparable through action informed by cognizance of a concretized past—in other words, through memorial behavior.

In August 2017, that push for present responses to the past erupted in a ritual of torch-bearing marchers who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, to oppose the removal of Confederate statuary. Ostensibly marching on behalf of memorial monuments, numerous divisions of the para-neo-Nazi “alt-right” intimidated Jewish attendees at a local synagogue and bore automatic weapons to face down an ecumenical gathering of clergy, gathered arm in arm to represent an alternative mode of remembering, motivated by an alternative set of religious and mnemonic values. As violence erupted, one counter-protester was killed when a Nazi sympathizer drove into a crowd. This bedspring of interleaved semi-secular memorial activism then spawned nationwide protests against the enduring memorial impact of Confederate monuments, drawing to the surface for the first time a public conversation about the contexts in which these monuments emerged. Principally, opponents argued, Confederate statuary emerged not as a functional memorial to secessionism but as a material threat to non-whites: substantial portions of these monuments emerged at the height of the Jim Crow era of racialized Southern jurisprudence, and again later in the wake of the court’s decisions regarding school integration in Brown v. Board of Education. Denaturalized from the unilateral language engraved into their plaques, these and other monuments serve increasingly as rhetorical centerpieces for critical inquiry into the political stakes of both deification and memorialization.

Increasingly, American memorial activity demonstrates to failure the ways in which a Protestant cultural consensus has both caved to the stresses of secular diversity and endured in the face of the ostensibly religionless public square it helped create. As a result, 21st-century memorial practices in the era of mass shootings both adopt and subvert Christian rhetorics of personal identity, sanctity, and immanence, intersecting contentious consequences for non-white, non-heterosexual, and non- or post-Christian communities. Memorial sites, once produced by and for the memories of American Christians, now serve more dynamic communities than ever before, and they bear that diversity and dynamism in their material and religious dimensions. When news reports emerged from Orlando, Florida, on the morning of July 12, 2016, that a mass shooting had taken place hours earlier at the city’s Pulse nightclub, early reports designated the massacre as the deadliest shooting in American history. Those reports were met with criticism on social-media outlets for ignoring the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, in which 300 Lakota Sioux fell to the United States 7th Cavalry, resulting in a retraction to specify the Pulse Nightclub Massacre as the largest single-shooter massacre in the nation’s history.

In the weeks after the shooting, news descriptions of the massacre continued to set off discussions over the relationship among remembering, forgetting, and reportage. After an initial report of twenty dead, by the morning of June 12, the number had risen to forty-nine. Unlike the Charleston church shooting’s location in an overt sanctuary, the Pulse nightclub formed a different kind of sanctuary as a club and gathering place for Orlando’s LGBTQ community. Mourners eulogized the club to reporters, describing it as a temple to self-expression for people with nowhere else to be themselves. Though known as a gay club, Pulse served a wide cross-section of Central Florida as a popular nightspot just outside of downtown, and on the night of June 11 into the morning of June 12, Pulse’s theme event was Latin Night, popular with members of the city’s Puerto Rican and Latinx communities.

As a result, the reports of mass trauma that emerged touched off a community-wide response in all corners: the forty-nine who lost their lives and the dozens more who were wounded were gay and straight, Puerto Rican and African American, men and women, locals and tourists, Catholics and atheists, and mothers and children. In the days that followed, local, state, and federal agencies swarmed the block of Orange Avenue where Pulse sat as media narratives swirled in the digital realm, seeking to contextualize the shooter along lines of homophobia and/or a reaction to Islamophobia while the Orlando citizens sought to make sense of their loss. Combating human loss with human community, metaphorical darkness with literal light, and hate with love began first by combating death with life in an immediate, material sense: by the afternoon of June 12, reports had gone out that survivors, transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center, were in desperate need of blood, resulting in thousands of people lining up outside blood banks around the region, overwhelming the banks’ supplies and personnel. As a memorial act, this rush to donate blood carried its own history of religious contention, cross-cutting religioanthropolgical concerns over physical viability with the moral impetus toward altruism. In spite of near-universal support for blood donation and receipt of blood donations, laws dating to the era of moral doubt regarding AIDS resulted in stories of LGBTQ Orlandoans prevented from donating, generating political controversy over the ideologies of inequality underlying both the attack and the inability of some people to give blood afterward.

Turned away from blood banks and eager to grieve, Orlandoans turned to social media to organize memorial services at public sites, to speculate on the killer’s ideological motives, and to affirm the humanity of the victims. Meanwhile, the city offered no-cost funerals in historic Greenwood Cemetery, Orlando’s only burial ground, to victims’ families. Logistically, mourners elected to postpone public vigils to avoid overwhelming first responders and the Orlando Police Department with ensuring public safety at both the memorial and the Pulse site itself, but on June 13, thousands of people turned out on the lawn of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center, where a candlelight vigil allowed the public to hear from its leadership, its first responders, and the staff of Pulse, all of whom received roars of sympathetic applause. The combination of lighting candles, maintaining silence, and hearing from representative parties produced rallying slogans such as “Orlando United” and “One Orlando” and marked the DPAC site as a complementary sacred site whose memorial power suddenly rose to counter the club as a site of destruction. If memory and community exist in a reciprocal and mutually constitutive embrace, the memorial activities in the wake of Pulse, through the “united” discourse and through the physical habits of congregation, generated a new rhetorical mode for understanding individual and community identity, defined principally by the values on display in the memorial sites and objects themselves.

In all, four sites emerged as locations for spontaneous memorials in the wake of the Pulse shooting: the DPAC lawn, the Orlando Regional Medical Center (which continued to treat survivors), the Pulse site itself (once investigators vacated and fenced off the building), and the central Lake Eola, a long-standing site for community events. An inventory of artifacts processed into the Historical Society of Central Florida’s collections reveals Orlando as a site of global ecumenism, and a religiously multivocal response, to abjection. While local Orlando radio program “The Three Wise Guys”—featuring a minister, an imam, and a rabbi, each from local congregations—spoke at memorials and generated discussion in media spheres that sought to evaluate the religious meaning of mass murder and mass community response, individual religious groups left a wide variety of objects at the sites. Soka Gakkai Buddhists left prayer cards featuring the principal chant of “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” in and among Catholic prayer cards and rosaries, while yahrzeit candles with Hebrew inscriptions burned next to “Muslims for Peace” pamphlets.

Alongside items left to represent explicitly religious memorial concerns, Orlando’s distinctive place as a site of secular pilgrimage emerged too. Sketches and plush dolls bearing Mickey Mouse’s likeness demonstrated that visitors from around the globe had incorporated memorial observances into their vacations. Universal Studios staff honored one of their own, Luis Vielma, by leaving Harry Potter–themed mementos in an act reminiscent of the rituals seen at Showmen’s Rest in Hugo, Oklahoma, where circus performers manifested value through the relinquishment of objects at the heart of their craft. Though purple and gold symbolize the colors of kings for many Christians, to Orlandoans they also represent the Orlando City Lions soccer club, and the prominence of soccer scarves in otherwise tropical Orlando forms its own expression of a ritually decontextualized object used to express unity and to crystallize loss.

Lions fans modified team flags, common to soccer fandom, by incorporating the rainbow stripes of the pride flag into the team’s purple-and-gold color scheme. Within months, the club’s administration announced that it would memorialize the 49 killed at Pulse with a section of seats in its new stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium of its kind in America, painted in pride-flag stripes. As a global destination with an international population, that the world’s most popular game took on its own memorial dimensions represented both change and continuity in American activity and memory. Following Bourdieu’s model of distinction, Orlando’s soccer and tourism communities mobilized their own rhetorics to express grief through the ritual reclassification of their most sacred symbols.

For many, getting out in Florida’s summer weather posed a quintessentially Orlando way of taking control and imposing order, but that same weather threatened to undo the Pulse memorials. With summer temperatures remaining over 90 degrees and daily rainstorms soaking the sites, preserving the memorials as historic events in and of themselves became both an emotionally and materially difficult task. Within two weeks of the massacre, a team from the Orange County Regional History Center began a process of photographing, collecting, preserving, and organizing over 5,000 objects as historical artifacts that reflected the massacre and Orlando’s communal memorial response. To make the artifacts collected available to a still-grieving public both locally and as far away as Puerto Rico, the History Center produced a digital memorial website and a media installation in the museum’s lobby, each featuring photos of memorial items and events.

As the city and county governments began looking toward one-year civic commemorations for June 2017, the spontaneous experience of group unity that followed the massacre itself began to show the marks of political maintenance: lawsuits emerged regarding the potential misuse of memorial funds by local groups, while the Univision newsmagazine Crónicas De Sábado drew on interviews with survivors and family members to stage a reenactment of the massacre for one episode. Swift reactions expressed incredulity and outrage, calling into close focus the contextual limits of reenactment as an acceptable memorial mechanism. When city and county leadership announced that June 12, 2017, would be “Orlando United Day” as a memorial action against the trauma enacted a year prior, Orlando city commissioner Patty Sheehan, the city’s first openly gay elected official and whose district includes the Pulse nightclub site, pointed out that official communications concerning the day omitted references to the communities most affected by the massacre, including its African American, Latinx, and LGBTQ citizens.

Collections efforts surrounding the Pulse massacre transferred into preservation, education, interpretation, and commemoration efforts, and the investigation into the shooting remains open nearly a year later. As millions of mourners move forward to express the ways they have been changed, they do so in many different directions, and with many different priorities. City officials have engaged the club’s owner in talks to turn the Pulse site into a memorial, but at present those talks remain unresolved. Much of the popular conversation surrounding the site involves defining, as with all memorial sites, the appropriateness of the space by the activities that will take place there: some hope the club will reopen, despite having suffered substantial damage in the police raid that ended the shooting; others hope for a park or a stone monument; still others have advocated for a LGBTQ community center or a museum invested in public improvement; still others have suggested that non-change would best reflect the killer’s inability to achieve his goals of changing the community, and that the business district where Pulse stands deserves a thriving business with little or no conventional memorial installation.

After centuries of memorial activity on the American continent dating back to and through European contact, memorialization emerges in the 21st century as an apparently secularized categorical activity overlapping the religious and civic lives of Americans. It possesses no standard scripts unaffected by political contest, yet the legacy of declaring present meaning through establishing the transcendence of old modes, whether through replication or renovation, endures. With new media technologies and the seeming permanence and universality of digital information, new circumstances both transform and perpetuate enduring practices, both challenging and cementing the modes of producing public memory. Despite their political and material contexts, memorial activities function to confer humanity, generate community, heal trauma, evoke and regulate feelings, and render past events capable of driving continuity and change in the presence and the future. In their wild diversity, memorial processes from parades to cemetery gates to stone monuments and moments of silence both secularize and express religious and moral-cosmological attitudes about the meaning of human experience, and they exist both as processes and as evidence of processes vitally important to the study of American religious life and practice.

Review of the Literature

Scholarly perspectives on memorialization reflect the diversity, contestedness, and recency of the habits they track. Critics from a variety of intellectual disciplines and memorial-consuming publics have striven to satisfy Jay Winter’s assessment that the blossoming of memory discourses demands “a more rigorous and tightly argued set of propositions about what exactly memory is, and what it has been in the past.”2 Nearly two decades later, under banners like “public memory,” “collective memory,” and “memorial studies,” conversations concerning memory, its social expression, and the political dimensions and ramifications of conceiving of memory as a sharable commodity are as robust as they are siloed. Academics working from backgrounds in religion, art history, political science, architecture, and psychology have recognized the role of memorial objects and acts in their fields of study, yet a clear definition of “memorial culture” remains evasive. To account for diversities of both subject and object in memorial analysis, edited volumes form a key site for scholars to advance interdisciplinary conversations and to take stock of past insights, as with The Collective Memory Reader and Commemoration in America.3

In spite of that evasion, a few core concerns and contributions continue to shape the confederation of scholars preoccupied with memory. One thing most scholars agree on is that memory is, insofar as it represents a domain of human conceptual thinking and practical behavior, a social and political process, defined and structured not through the pure manifestation of inner experience but through the assent to group norms, a determination Maurice Halbwachs first advanced in The Social Frame Works of Memory. While history represents the pursuit of objective human truths, the phenomenon called “collective memory” depends entirely on the perspectival locativity of a human group replete with media products, familial traditions, and markers of distinction. In terms of how that tension over collective memory and personal claims to authoritative narrativity play out in American history, Edward Linenthal’s History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past delineates the partisanship and divergent emotional investments that emerge in active battles over the stakes, contents, and bounds of public commemoration.4

Pierre Nora’s Realms of Memory marks the other dipole supporting many later investigations into the nature of memory, particularly for his advancement therein of lieux de memoire, or “sites of memory,” including artificial/cultural environmental products like museums, monuments, and historic sites capable of preserving and disseminating memories in the absence of what Nora calls the premodern “real environments of memory.”5 Reminiscent of Victor Turner’s model for ideological communitas, Nora modifies Halbwach’s work on remembering into a physical context for memorializing that compensates for the disunity of modern culture. Following Halbwachs and Nora, later memorial scholarship often concerns the identities of parties responsible for shaping memorial processes, the political and economic ends of those shaping acts, and the moods and motivations revealed in the structure and function of memorial places and objects.

For much of the 20th century, scholars largely ignored monuments and memorials as natural facts attributed to tradition, but in the last thirty years, the patriotism and nationalism underpinning many monumental sites emerged as key points of focus, whether through explorations of individual monuments like the Lincoln Memorial, the United States Capitol, or the World War II Memorial.6 In the 1990s, the relationship between wartime conflict and national memorial unity dominated memorial scholarship: Linenthal’s Sacred Grounds forms a key contribution that continues to guide subsequent scholarship, alongside David Waldstreicher’s work on early nationalist activities like parades and speeches and Kirk Savage’s explorations of the place of racial and national ideologies in the marketplace of postwar memories.7 Categorically, museums also form public sites for the contemplation, construction, and ritualization of memorial activities. Religion in Museums represents the address of the museum as a reliquary and ritual environment by both leading and emerging voices addressing the eponymous role of religion in both the form and content of the modern museum environment.8

As a regular and regulating public activity centered on the sanctification of public objects and public spaces through pageants and parades, American memorialization forms a substantial site of interest for scholars concerned with ritual behaviors. Naturally, this focus overlaps with interests in national identity and nation making, and Linenthal’s Sacred Grounds forms a key contribution to the ritual study of memorial spaces, while Sarah Purcell’s Sealed with Blood examines the roles of spaceless rituals like anniversaries and festivals in the construction of identity in the early Republic.9 This nationalism produces consequences for other narratives and memories that fall outside the governmental public square. For every public represented in a battlefield monument, other rituals emerge to challenge those narratives. Of interest in this regard, George Lipsitz’s Time Passages and Marita Sturken’s Tangled Memories draw attention to the increasing value of new media technologies and even therapeutic practices in giving voice to memories that complement or counter dominant narratives.10 Memorialization, as a reflective subset of cultural mechanics in general, forms a site of power for both the hegemon and the subaltern alike.

The reported interiority of remembering and the profound personalness ascribed to the act of remembering place it in conversation with other ostensibly interior processes like feeling. As a result, emotive-mnemonic complexes like trauma and nostalgia, as subtypes of remembering and forgetting, form a critically compelling site for inquiry. Trauma acts both to preserve and abolish memory, and to justify both construction and destruction, sometimes as simultaneous acts: in “Amalek and the Rhetoric of Extermination” and Dispossessing the Wilderness, John Corrigan and Mark David Spence draw attention, respectively, to the to the religious and political discourses responsible for pairing remembering and forgetting in justifications for the expansion of the American physical and ideological frontier.11

Edward Linenthal, Marita Sturken, Kenneth Foote, and James Young all demonstrate, across decades of theoretical and historical work in commemoration, a bloom in scholarship concerning the new age of mass (and mass-mediated) trauma, from the Holocaust Museum to the material economics of spontaneous reactions to terrorist attacks, shootings, and other mass-trauma events.12 Linenthal’s Preserving Memory and Young’s Texture of Memory both focus on the memorial problems and solutions posed by Holocaust memorials, while the former’s The Unfinished Bombing offers the core analysis of the modern mass-tragedy memorial in its assessment of the Oklahoma City bombing. Institutionally and popularly, the material redress of grief and loss encapsulates the most robust critical conversations in memorial studies: Young’s Stages of Memory and Kenneth Foote’s Shadowed Ground round out a key set of monograph’s focused on trauma that extend into and through the post-9/11 era, while Spontaneous Shrines and the Public Memorialization of Death and Grassroots Memorials offer edited collections focused on the transition to modern memorials as sites of mass and popular material activity.13 The wealth of memorial offerings now commonly left at sites of mass tragedy represents, however minimally, where the purity of memorial intent is concerned, economic complexes and processes of commerce. Sturken’s Tourists of History picks up this thread at the Oklahoma City bombing, arguing that the purity of memorialization is in fact a popular, kitschy, and personal product. Emotionally, this complexity extends to feelings performed and interpreted beyond grief and loss, revealing those sentiments as part of a larger flow of memorial feelings, best organized by Erika Doss’s Memorial Mania.14

Further Reading

Buggeln, Gretchen, Crispin Paine, and S. Brent, eds. Religion in Museums: Global and Multidisciplinary Environment. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017.Find this resource:

    Doss, Erika. Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.Find this resource:

      Foote, Kenneth. Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997.Find this resource:

        Gobel, David, and Daves Rossell, eds. Commemoration in America. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013.Find this resource:

          Gonzalez, Mario, and Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. The Politics of Hallowed Ground: Wounded Knee and the Struggle for Indian Sovereignty. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1998.Find this resource:

            Linenthal, Edward. Sacred Grounds: Americans and their Battlefields. Champagne: University of Illinois Press, 1993.Find this resource:

              Linenthal, Edward. The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory. Oxford University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

                Lipsitz, George. Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990.Find this resource:

                  Mills, Nicolaus. Their Last Battle: The Fight for the National World War II Memorial. New York: Basic Books, 2004.Find this resource:

                    Olic, Jeffrey, Vered Vinitzki-Seroussi, and Daniel Levy, eds. The Collective Memory Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

                      Santino, Jack, ed. Spontaneous Shrines and the Public Memorialization of Death. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.Find this resource:

                        Sturken, Marita. Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.Find this resource:

                          Sturken, Marita. Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

                            Waldstreicher, David. In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776–1820. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.Find this resource:

                              Young, James E. The Stages of Memory: Reflections on Memorial Art, Loss, and the Spaces Between. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2016.Find this resource:


                                (1.) Jan Assmann, “Cultural Memory and Collective Identity,” in Kultur und Gedächtnis (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1988), 125–133.

                                (2.) Jay Winter, “The Memory Boom in Contemporary Historical Studies,” Bulletin of the German Institute 27 (2001): 69–92.

                                (3.) Jeffrey Olic, Vered Vinitzki-Seroussi, and Daniel Levy, eds., The Collective Memory Reader (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); David Gobel and Daves Rossell, eds., Commemoration in America (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013).

                                (4.) Edward Linenthal and Tom Engelhardt, eds., History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past (New York: Henry Holt, 1998).

                                (5.) Pierre Nora, ed., Les Lieux de Mémoire (Paris: Gallimard, 1984).

                                (6.) Christopher Thomas, The Lincoln Memorial and American Life (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002); Vivien Fryd, Art and Empire: The Politics of Ethnicity in the United States Capitol, 1815–1860 (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1992); Nicolaus Mills, Their Last Battle: The Fight for the National World War II Memorial (New York: Basic Books, 2004).

                                (7.) Edward Linenthal, Sacred Grounds: Americans and their Battlefields (Champagne: University of Illinois Press, 1993); David Waldstreicher, In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776–1820 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1997); Kirk Savage, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999).

                                (8.) Gretchen Buggeln, Crispin Paine, and S. Brent Plate, eds., Religion in Museums: Global and Multidisciplinary Environment (New York: Bloomsbury, 2017).

                                (9.) Sarah Purcell, Sealed with Blood: War, Sacrifice, and Memory in Revolutionary America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002).

                                (10.) George Lipsitz, Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990); Marita Sturken, Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997).

                                (11.) John Corrigan, “Amalek and the Rhetoric of Extermination,” in The First Prejudice, eds. Chris Beneke and Christopher Grenada (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 53–72; Mark David Spence, Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks, Oxford University Press, 1999.

                                (12.) James E. Young, The Texture of Memory (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993).

                                (13.) Edward Linenthal, Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995); Edward Linenthal, The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); James E. Young, The Stages of Memory: Reflections on Memorial Art, Loss, and the Spaces Between (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2016); Kenneth Foote, Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997); Jack Santino, ed., Spontaneous Shrines and the Public Memorialization of Death (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006); Peter Jan Margry and Cristina Sánchez-Carretero, eds., Grassroots Memorials: The Politics of Memorializing Traumatic Death (New York: Bergahn, 2011).

                                (14.) Marita Sturken, Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007); Erika Doss, Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).