Dell Upton follows up on the theme of his current book, What Can and Can’t Be Said: Race, Uplift, and Monument Building in the Contemporary South (Yale University Press) by asking a team of individuals critically engaged with public art, memory, and the nation about the recent debates around Confederate monuments and efforts to recognize histories of lynching.
A monument leads an unhappy life. The best it can hope for is to molder quietly under a mantle of pigeon droppings, for when the people or events it celebrates attract a critical eye, its travails begin. Because a monument holds up its subject to memory, even adulation, it is likely to suffer for the failings of the animate.
In the context of the recent Confederate memorial debates, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, directly challenges the heroic narrative of the Confederacy as an honorable struggle and the idea that slavery was a benevolent institution.
Confederate Monuments and the Inevitable Forces of Change
Contrary to popular perception, monuments are not immutable or unchanging edifices; instead, there can be adjustments and adaptations according to the circumstances of their environments.
At the heart of “American democracy” and “American freedom,” there is a shameful rot, which public monuments “labor” to paper over in order to present our struggles and conflicts as resolved and settled.
Cécile R. Ganteaume
Washington, DC: National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 2017; 192 pp.; 50 color illus.; ISBN: 978-1-5179-0330-5; Hardcover: $28.00
Reviewed by: Kristine K. Ronan, Visiting Assistant Professor, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015; 280 pp., 59 b/w illus.; ISBN 9780300211757; Hardcover: $35.00
Reviewed by: Lauren Kroiz, Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley
In times of economic and environmental crisis, illustrators for the popular press often produced images of charity that worked alongside text to explain philanthropic processes and to demonstrate the effectiveness of various types of food aid. In addition to this instructional function, depictions of food aid reinforced social boundaries between the recipients of charity, viewers, and those with the ability to offer their time and resources. As a force for difference, these images utilize food and philanthropy as legible and significant markers of class.
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