Research Colloquium, CRASSH 2007-2009
Memory, identity and collectivity in the politics of responses to urban terrorism:
The IRA bombing of Manchester in 1996 and the Madrid train bombings of ‘11-M’, 2004.
Presenter: Daniel Clarke, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Discussant: Dr. Matei Candea, University of Cambridge
When a city suffers a terrorist attack we often see responses on a scale which, as with that over the mass casualties of war and genocide, exceed any ‘normal’ limits of grief and mourning. Such a difference in scale can be seen to effect a difference in kind, sometimes apparently eluding human comprehension, as seen in “the peculiar problems presented by the Holocaust [which] have created a genre of anti-memorials”, only really able to embody this impossibility, rather than the memory of the event itself (Forty, 1999: 6). However, aside from the scale – for which we do find a comparison in genocide or war – there are other aspects of urban terrorism which are peculiar to the context, in terms of both attack and response.
The first half of this presentation explores the nature of the civic response to urban terrorism, looking at memorialisation of the 1996 IRA bomb in Manchester. With nobody having died in the attack, the element of response to personal deaths is absent, allowing a focus on responses to the attack of the city itself. I start, here, with the ‘politics of memory’ (after Sturken, 1997), however, it also attempts to situate this within the politics of responses more generally, focusing especially on the importance of civic identity, self-imagination, and even the city itself as a body, ‘wounded’ in the attack (Schneider & Susser, 2003).
The second half moves on to look at the case of the Madrid train bombings of ‘11-M’, 2004, in which the element of responses to personal death was obviously very much present. However, even in the overwhelming presence of death, we continue to see the presence of a civic response such as that outlined for the Manchester case. Here, I will outline the plans for my current research – on the vast ethnographic collection of the Archivo del Duelo: a collection of messages left at the ‘spontaneous shrines’ (after Santino, 2006) which appeared in the aftermath of the attack – looking at the creation of identities (including civic identities) through the processes of mourning in the aftermath of such attacks. Again, these elements should be situated within the broader politics of responses, for the importance of which Madrid serves as the prime example, with Aznar’s government famously ousted in the general elections three days after the attacks after controversy over how they had been handled.
• Forty, A. (1999) Introduction in Forty, A. & Küchler, S. (eds.) The Art of Forgetting
• Santino, J. (2006 ed.) Spontaneous Shrines and the Public Memorialisation of Death.
• Schneider, J. & Susser, I. (2003 eds.) Wounded Cities: Destruction and reconstruction in a globalised world.
• Sturken, M. (1997) Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering.
Part of the Post-Conflict & Post-Crisis R C Seminar Series. Alternate Tuesdays in term 2.30-4.30pm
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