Realms of Memory

Realms of Memory is a podcast that looks at how countries confront their darkest chapters, what they gain by doing so, and what happens when they fail to take up this challenge. We feature the insights of leading experts on a wide range of difficult national memories.

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3 days ago

For communities to determine the fate of the hundreds of remaining monuments to the Confederacy they need to understand the context and purpose for which they were built.  University of North Carolina at Charlotte historian and professor emerita Karen L. Cox stresses that these monuments were erected to restore and perpetuate a system of white supremacy.  Situated in prominent public spaces, particularly outside courthouses, monuments to the Confederacy worked in tandem with Jim Crow laws and racial terror to create a system of white domination that lasted another hundred years after emancipation.  A conversation with Karen L. Cox about her book, No Common Ground: Confederate Monuments and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice, coming July 2nd on Realms of Memory.  

Tuesday Jun 04, 2024

As campaign season in the United States kicks into high gear the border has once again become a political football for both the right and left.  University of Texas at San Antonio historian Omar Valerio-Jiménez reminds us that these uses and abuses of the border typically rely on collective amnesia about the past.  In Remembering Conquest: Mexican Americans, Memory and Citizenship, Valerio-Jiménez shines a much needed light on how the US-Mexico War created the southern border and what this has meant for Mexicans, from Texas to California, who became American citizens. In particular, he shows how the memory of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the war inspired generations of Mexican Americans to fight to achieve the unfulfilled promise of full citizenship rights. 

Tuesday May 14, 2024

Fears of the border are reaching fever pitch in the lead up to the 2024 US presidential elections.  Much of the alarm hinges on the forgetting of the US-Mexico War (1846-1848).  University of Texas at San Antonio historian Omar Valerio-Jiménez reminds us that it was the United States that invaded and annexed half of Mexico.  In Remembering Conquest: Mexican Americans, Memory and Citizenship, Valerio-Jiménez reveals how the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the war, and its unfulfilled promise of full citizenship rights, has never been forgotten by Mexican Americans. Since the mid-nineteenth century, memories of the US-Mexico War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo have inspired successive generations of Mexican Americans to fight for their civil rights.

Tuesday May 07, 2024

Americans are living in an age of frenzied memorial making, argues University of Texas at Dallas art and cultural historian Erika Doss.  We saturate the public landscape with memorials to every conceivable cause, aggrieved group, or unsung hero.  What do memorials tell us about Americans and America today? In Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America, Erika Doss contends that memorials embody public emotions such as grief, fear, gratitude, shame and anger.  They help process tragic events like school shootings or terrorist attacks.  They allow us to express our gratitude for past sacrifices or shame for episodes that run counter to our shared values and ideals.  At their best, memorials allow for our participation in the process of memory making.  They can be powerfully therapeutic, encouraging conversations and engaged, critical thinking about the past.  At their worst, they can entrench us in our emotions, lock us into self-gratulatory modes of thought, or magnify our fears without helping us to understand the hows and whys of what we are memorializing.  

Tuesday Apr 16, 2024

From the 9/11 to the Salem witch trials memorial, University of Texas at Dallas art historian Erika Doss argues that we are living in an age of memorial mania.  In her book Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America, Erika Doss explains how memorials embody and allow for the public expression of emotions such as grief, fear, gratitude, shame and anger.  What are the benefits and drawbacks of today’s memorial culture and what does it reveal about America and Americans?  Find out on the May 7th episode of Realms of Memory.  

Remembering Emmett Till

Tuesday Apr 02, 2024

Tuesday Apr 02, 2024

It took nearly fifty years before a single dollar was spent on commemorating Emmett Till in the state of Mississippi where he was brutally murdered in August 1955.  Dave Tell, University of Kansas Professor and author of Remembering Emmett Till, argues that we can’t understand the remembering and forgetting of Emmett Till in the Mississippi Delta where he died without considering the natural and built environment.  From the Tallahatchie River where the fourteen-year-old boy’s body was sunk to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market where the story was set in motion, the buildings and natural features of the Mississippi Delta have had a profound impact on memory of Emmett Till.  

Remembering Emmett Till

Tuesday Mar 19, 2024

Tuesday Mar 19, 2024

In August 1955 Emmett Till was abducted from his uncle’s home, tortured, shot, bound by barbed wire to a cotton gin fan and sunk in the Tallahatchie River.  The outrage triggered by the photo of the mangled remains of the fourteen-year-old boy’s body in the open cassette at the funeral in Till’s native Chicago rallied many to the cause of the nascent civil rights movement.  University of Kansas Professor Dave Tell, author of Remembering Emmett Till, helps us understand the forces that broke the decades long silence in the Mississippi Delta where the murder took place.  The built and natural environment of the Delta, Tell argues, has had a profound influence on the memory and legacy of the murder.  For my full conversation with Dave Tell, tune into the April 2nd episode of Realms of Memory. 

Tuesday Mar 05, 2024

Beginning in 1880s Africans Americans became the targets of a lynching craze that claimed thousands of lives.  In Beyond the Rope: The Impact of Lyching on Black Culture and Memory, University of Oklahoma historian Karlos K. Hill argues that narratives are key to understanding not just what drove the lynching craze but how African Americans responded.  It was the narrative of the black beast rapist that fueled and justified the lyching mania.  African American activists and cultural actors responded with their own victimization and consoling narrative to galvanize public support and to offer examples of courage and heroism to inspire future generations.  Victimization and consoling narratives were both examples of how African Americans found usable pasts to fight against racial violence and injustice.  

Tuesday Feb 20, 2024

Dehumanizing narratives of black male bodies drove the lynching epidemic that claimed thousands of African American lives between the late nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries.  Dr. Karlos K. Hill, author of Beyond the Rope: The Impact of Lynching on Black Culture and Memory, explains how African American political and cultural actors fought back against this reign of terror with their own humanizing and heroic narratives of lynched black bodies.  Remembering lynched black bodies in ways that encouraged empathy or instilled sentiments pride was a means of finding empowering usable pasts during one of the darkest chapters in American history.  

Tuesday Feb 06, 2024

Cambodia has often been cast as a broken, amnesiac nation, unable to confront the memory of the horrors it experienced during the Khmer Rouge era.  How did these assumptions justify the establishment of transitional justice mechanisms such as the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)?  In what ways were the therapeutic claims of the ECCC overblown and destined to disappoint?  How did the Cambodian government use the ECCC to support its own self-serving reading of the past?  What important memory work did NGOs take on that is often forgotten because of the tendency to focus exclusively on prominent institutions such as the ECCC?  To answer these questions and more listen to University of Bath sociologist Pete Manning, author of Transitional Justice and Memory in Cambodia: Beyond the Extraordinary Chambers.


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