The changing culture and politics of commemoration

Authored by: Hiro Saito

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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A crucial challenge in sociological research on commemoration today is to illuminate the dual nature of commemoration – as a source of both group solidarity and intergroup conflict – against the backdrop of the changing culture and politics of the increasingly global world. On the one hand, commemoration provides people with a common autobiographical narrative to create collective memory as a basis of their group solidarity. On the other hand, commemoration leads to intergroup conflict because different groups compete for power to legitimate their own versions of history. To theorize how commemoration can be generative of both group solidarity and intergroup conflict, this chapter proposes to combine the cultural sociology of ritual and performance with field theory and social movement studies. At the same time, the chapter shows how the dual nature of commemoration has been complicated by the globalization of human rights discourse and media networks expanding the scope of solidarity and conflict beyond national borders. Specifically, the emerging logic of cosmopolitanism now produces an institutional contradiction with the extant logic of nationalism, driving the dynamics of commemoration in the contemporary world.

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