Networked Memorialization: Victims Of Communism Memorials In Germany, Russia, And The U.s.
This dissertation examines victims of communism memorials in Germany, Russia, and the U.S. to shed light on the current state of Cold War collective memory. Drawing on literature in communication and memory studies, I articulate a key set of taken for question assumptions about the nature of war memory, and examine how such premises are problematized by an unconventional conflict like the Cold War. Then, I turn to a series of case studies – the Berlin Wall Memorial in Germany, the Wall of Grief monument and Last Address Project in Russia, and the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington D.C. - to examine how the Cold War is being made meaningful within these contexts, and to consider what each project contributes to our understanding of the Cold War and collective memory more generally. My methodological approach centers the institutions and organizations that develop, execute, and maintain these sites. I explore these case studies through interviews with stakeholders, site analysis of the memorial spaces, and a textual analysis of organizational and planning documents, project websites and social media, and media coverage.
I find that the Cold War is not a universal signifier, and that each of these sites disaggregates and re-aggregates “the Cold War” in a way that attends to localized concerns. I find uneven support for existing premises of war memory, and articulate the need for new ways of understanding contemporary memorial projects. I develop the concept on networked memorialization as a framework for understanding the relational nature of contemporary memorial projects. Networked memorialization is the idea that memorial projects are made meaningful within a complex network of institutions, projects, and actors, and that those networked relationships play a role in shaping commemorative work. Memorials are networked internally and externally, formally and informally, collaboratively or antagonistically, and are subject a variety of power dynamics, including issues of funding and visibility. This dissertation thus contributes to our understanding of Cold War collective memory by revealing its partial, unstable signification, and to our understanding of contemporary memorial projects by offering networked memorialization as both a heuristic and analytical tool.