Commemorative Dis(re)membering: Erasing Heritage, Spatializing Disinheritance
Journal article, 2003
In this paper I develop an idea of commemorative ‘dis(re)membering’ as a tool for a critical, non-essentialist reconfiguration of memorial landscapes, heritage discourse, and dominant official narratives of the past. The notion of commemorative dis(re)membering is not limited to any one particular case but is a general approach which fundamentally questions taken-for-granted assumptions about memorialization as a social process. The empirical focus of the article is on Swedish labor company camps established by the military in the late 1930s. I present a historical background to the camps, and proceed to consider the discourse that framed and enabled the creation of them. In reference to Continental European social theory and philosophy, I address the position of the camps in relation to the constitution of the law and the social imaginary. I proceed to situate the argument in the context of recent attempts to address forms of ‘dissonant heritage’ and pave the ground for a critique of heritage logocentrism. This critique is then advanced through an elaboration of dis(re)membering in relation to overarching issues of democracy, subjectivity, identity, citizenship, and the role of the past in the present. Finally, I propose a permanent replacement of the imaginary lineage of heritage with a ‘rhizome history’ of ‘disinheritance’. In suggesting the erasure of heritage, I propose that objects of the past should be mobilized as disinheritance assemblages for critical and subversive purposes in order to make the past implode into the present and across spatial scales in ways unsettling fundamental social imaginary significations.