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Commemorating in a global world: The geopolitics of commemoration

Call for contributions - Issue 42 (2020-3) of the review L’Espace politique
Deadline for submission of proposals: 12th April 2020

Coordinators of this issue

Anne Hertzog, MCF Géographie, Université de Cergy-Pontoise (

Rafiq Pirzada, Associate Professor of Cultural Studies, Université du Cachemire, Inde (


In the wake of the First World War centenary, we propose a special issue of the journal l'Espace Politique with the aim of examining new dimensions of the commemorative phenomenon, whose study is undergoing a certain renewal (Garcia, 2001, Kesteloot C., Van Ypersele L., 2016) and memory policies as imbricated within the processes of globalization. Commemoration covers a great diversity of practices far from being limited to the memory of wars (Ashplant, 2000, West, 2016) or of great national figures (for example, those embodied by pantheonizations in France). This special issue thus encourages contributions from a broader approach to the commemorative phenomenon, as long as the texts are in line with the axes proposed by the editors. We propose to consider commemoration as a political space constructed at multiple levels of scale through “event making,” and to explore its dynamic from a geopolitical perspective.

Generally associated with the affirmation of the idea of nation (Gillis, 1994), commemorations and memorial practices nevertheless appear more complex. Mobilizing memory in common (“co-memorating”) can also mean defending a cause or "seeking for recognition" (Gauchet, 2010). Organized by a wide range of actors, state and non-state, institutional and non-institutional, they are linked to transnational processes and flows that characterize the globalized world. They are part of multiple issues (Gensburger, Lefranc, 2017), political, civic, diplomatic, but also economic and touristic. Commemorations are instruments of reconciliation or the conscious efforts of denial of closure through forgetting, sometimes even seen as memories of hatred. They also constitute a modality of resistance and resilience, now globalized, finding various forms of expression in the public space. Commemorations are local, but they are also spaces of affirming the power of the States seeking to project their nationhood beyond territorial boundaries into the global world, such as Australia (Fathi, 2019) or India, which have recently intensified commemorations and memorialization beyond their national borders. As localized celebrations, the commemorative "liturgies" give rise to interactions between actors, whose contemporary modalities remain to be explored, particularly in their articulation with politics.

The special issue will be an opportunity to propose new perspectives on the commemorative phenomena and their globalizing character, enriching approaches traditionally dominated by political history and memory studies. Much attention will be paid to methodology and critical approach; it will also be possible to develop comparative or multi-site analyses, particularly interesting in this respect would be to grasp the emergence of commemoration as a globalized phenomenon.

1.Commemorations and memorial policies in a post-national / neo-national perspective: new scales of commemorative and memorial policies.

Articles on national commemoration are welcome. However, we would like to question the commemorative phenomenon in a "post-national" perspective through the analysis of the plurality/pluralization of the scales of commemorations and memory policies. Some of the main questions that we seek to address in the special issue include: Can we speak of an event-driven fabric of "post-national" political spaces when commemorations "to oneself" (touching restricted circles) or "community" are affirmed? In the context of globalization and in the face of the world's geopolitical recompositions (Badie, Foucher, 2017), commemorations and memory policies are part of certain universalist paradigms such as peace, reconciliation or "shared memories". In what way are commemorations instruments for bringing states closer together, both at European and global level? How do they design new spaces for (cross-border, inter-state, or local) exchange and cooperation? And, conversely, in what cases can commemorations also preserve or even stir up hatred and separation? Texts on the use of commemoration in authoritarian regimes and dictatorships are also expected.

2. The global space of commemoration and memory: globalized circulation of actors and memory practices.

The context of globalization and generalized circulation allows us to question the globalized diffusion of memory practices and commemorative phenomena. Between "globalized" commemorations (Shoah, terrorist attacks) and local reappropriation, what circulation of practices and cultural references takes place? We seek to question the commemorative phenomena in their articulation to the multiscalar dynamics and processes of exchange and circulation (circulation of images and information, generalized but unequal mobility ...) characterizing globalization. How are commemorations reshaped by mobilities and circulations, and how do they generate new kinds of mobilities and flows, at different levels of scales. Texts studying the commemorative phenomena in the light of contemporary works on “transnational turn” (Erll, Rigney, 2018, De Cesari, Rigney, 2014) and “travels of memory” (Erll, 2011) are welcome.

3. Challenging commemorative democracy: memories, counter-memories and political violence

If the commemorative phenomenon becomes globalized, the freedom/rights to commemorate remain unequal around the world, leading in many cases to the (in)visibilization of pain, denial of commemoration and memorialization to the subaltern. We can therefore question the place and stakes of commemoration in different contexts, by analyzing memorial and commemorative policies as the expression of power as well as of resilience against the power and different forms of domination (Basham, 2016, Ferris et al, 2018, Fondhal, 2018, Hite, 2012) - including post/de-colonial perspectives (Lasserre et al, 2019, Souza Correa, 2011).

Moreover, the many examples of (institutional or non institutional) commemorations expressing nostalgia for authoritarian or fascist regimes within liberal and democratic societies in Europe and elsewhere in the world, invite to question what kind of significance can be given to such commemoration of the inacceptable ? More broadly, we question commemoration in the light of political conflicts and power relations, but also in the light of social, spatial and economic inequalities, and the feeling of social exclusion and injustice, which manifest themselves in all societies.

4. Commemorative scenes and atmospheres: a « globalized » ceremonial space as a show and collective experience of politics?

Memorial and commemorative practices also involve the sharing of emotions and the expression of individual and collective rituals that are part of different "memory cultures" (Closs, 2015). The commemoration encourages a set of practices ranging from communication to scenography (Garcia, 2018). Contributions analyzing the commemorative and memorial space as a "public stage", focusing on the commemorative atmospheres (Sumartojo, 2015, 2016) will be welcome, as well as those that show the role of new categories of actors (artists, media...) alongside more traditional actors (militarized vs demilitarized commemorations), or contributions that analyze commemoration through individual practices. Papers which develop the ways how participants interact in the commemorative space will be welcome in order to question commemoration through the lens of “spatial politics of affect” (Thrift, 2004).

5. Economy (s) of commemoration. Investments, benefits, profits.

The generally unaddressed theme of the economics of commemoration (costs and profits, commodification...) finds its place in this issue: it is to see how the public ceremony is understood by the economy. Like the Centenary of the First World War in France, or the organization of the D-Day in Normandy in 2014, commemoration can be considered in the logic of the "mega event" when the issue is development, attractiveness or economic spinoffs on a territory. In what way is commemoration also thought of and promoted as an economic resource? Who finance commemoration? To what effect do commemorative practices use past and space for commemorative events?

Bibliographical information

Ashplant T, 2000, The politics of war memory and commemoration Routledge, Abingdon

Badie B., Foucher M., 2017, Vers un monde néo-national ? CNRS Éditions, Paris, 208 pages

Basham V. M.  2016, « Gender, race, militarism and remembrance: the everyday geopolitics of the poppy », Gender, Place & Culture , A Journal of Feminist Geography, 23/6

Closs S. A, 2015, “The affective atmospheres of nationalism”, Cultural Geographies 23, p. 181–98

De Cesari C., Rigney A., 2014, Transnational memory: circulation, articulation, scales, De Gruyter

Erll A., (2011), “Travelling Memory”, Parallax, 17:4, p. 4-18

Erll A., Rigney A., 2018, “Cultural Memory Studies after the Transnational Turn”, Memory Studies, Volume 11 Issue 3, July 2018

Fathi R., 2019, « Le prosélytisme mémoriel australien dans la Somme et le nouveau Centre Sir John Monash », 20 & 21. Revue d'histoire 2019/3 (N° 143), pages 129 à 147

Ferris, S., Ladner, K., Allard, D., Hughes, M., 2018, « Commemoration and decolonization in the missing and the murdered indigenous women database », Public, Volume 29, Number 57, June 2018, pp. 96-106(11)

Fondahl G., 2018, « Visiting Memorial Tree. Micro-geopolitics of an Evenki place composed and performed », Études mongoles et sibériennes, centrasiatiques et tibétaines [Online], 49 | 2018, URL : 

Gauchet M., 2010, « Les enjeux de la reconnaissance », dans S. Trigano, L’universel et la politique des identités, Ed. de l’Eclat, p. 13-24

Garcia P., 2001, “Exercices de mémoire ? Les pratiques commémoratives dans la France contemporaine”, Cahiers français, n° 303, 7-8

Garcia P., 2018, « Commémorer in situ », dans « Paysages en guerre, paysages de guerre », Les Chemins de la Mémoire, Hors-Série, Novembre 2018, p. 20-25

Gensburger, S. & Lefranc, S., 2017, À quoi servent les politiques de mémoire. Paris : Presses de Sciences Po.

Gillis, J. R., 1994, Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

Hite, K., 2012, Politics and the Art of Commemoration: Memorials to Struggle in Latin America and Spain. Abingdon: Routledge.

Kesteloot C., Van Ypersele L., 2016, Pour une analyse du phénomène commémoratif, Revue Belge d’histoire contemporaine, XLVI, 2016, 3/4

Lasserre F., Stan C., 2018, « Guerres coloniales et commémoration : le cas des défaites occidentales. Enjeux de pouvoir sur des lieux de mémoire », L’Espace Politique [Online], 36 | 2018-3, URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/espacepolitique.5591

Souza Correa S M., 2011, History, memory, and commemorations: on genocide and colonial past in South West Africa Revista Brasileira de História. São Paulo, v. 31, nº 61, p. 85-103

Sumartojo S and Stevens Q, 2016 Anzac atmospheres in Drozdzewski D, Waterton E and de Nardi S eds Memory, place and identity: commemoration and remembrance of war and conflict, Routledge, London, p. 189–204

Sumartojo S, 2015, On atmosphere and darkness at Australia’s Anzac Day Dawn Service, Visual Communication 14, p. 267–88

Thrift N., 2004, Intensities of feeling: towards a spatial politics of affect, Geografiska Annaler, 86B, p. 57–78

Till, K., 2003, “Places of memory”. In J. Agnew, K. Mitchell, and G. Toal, editors, A Companion to Political Geography. Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 289–301

West B., (dir) 2016, War Memory and Commemoration, Routlege

Instructions to authors

Articles must not exceed 60,000 characters including spaces and comply with the publication standards of L'Espacepolitique [On line:].

The text should be sent before 12th April 2020 to the following addresses:,

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