International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: memorials

District Six Museum

Last semester I did a big research project on South Africa and thought the District Six Museum was very interesting.  I feel that it is very relevant to what we have been discussing regarding memorials and forms of reparations that can be given to victims.  The history of District Six is interesting and it is worth reading the museum’s mission statement to connect it to what happened in the apartheid era of South Africa.

District Six was home to much of the Cape Town population before the apartheid regime took over in South Africa.  This regime decided to declare District Six for whites only and so many people were “asked” to leave in order for that change to take place.  Once the apartheid regime took power the history of Cape Town was only half told.  Only white history was allowed to be taught and spoken of in that area since they wanted people to believe that it was a city made by the hard-working European settlers.  They did not speak of the African-Americans that had lived there and they did not mention slavery or the slave trade.  It was as if none of that had ever happened.

In 1994 the District Six Museum opened.  This museum shows the complete history of Cape Town (although it could very well be a government accepted “truth” and still not the complete truth).  It serves as a way to teach the true history of the city, to show what happened during the apartheid regime, and to give victims and visitors the opportunity to reflect on what happened and even give their opinions to the museum owners.

Nelson Mandela Digital Archive up and running

Not sure if any of you have heard of this but I found out about it today while scrolling the news. Nelson Mandela, a champion of human rights and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, started the Nelson Mandel Centre for Memory in efforts to carry on his work after his retirement. This program helped launch the Nelson Mandela digital archive of which Google had a large part in making such a feat possible. It donated $1.25 Million to the project in hopes that its resources may help encourage future pushes for social justice. Within the archive some of the earliest known photos of Mandela exist as well as the warrant for committal form issued to Mandela in 1962. Could this type of massive push for making such archives easily accessible be another form of justice? Early it was posted on the right to the truth and whether or not that existed, could these types of websites and archives be a possible path to making such truths not only accesible to victims but to the world as well as serving as an encouragement for future generations to consistently push for justice? Interesting food for thought to say the least. 

Amsterdam to mark Jews’ WWII homes

This post follows along something which I talked about in class a month or two ago. Essentially in Amsterdam, the May 4-5 Committee (named for when the Netherlands were liberated in 1945) is asking residents of houses that were owned by Jewish owners before World War II to post a poster saying, “1 of the 21,662 houses where Jews lived who were murdered in World War II.’’ To find out if their home was once owned by a Jewish family, they can look on the website to see if their house once was. This is a form of temporary memorialization in the sense that the posters will not be up there indefinitely whereas a plaque on the side of the building is more likely to stay up for decades. In the cities of Hamburg, Berlin, Bonn, Bremen, Essen, Frankfurt in Germany, there has been a program called Stolpersteine, which essentially consists of bronze plaques embedded into the sidewalk outside of the houses and workplaces of Jewish people of the city. This form of memorialization is as good as a plaque on the side of the building but it also improves upon that by being more in your face in terms of memorializing those lost.

vietnam memorial

So today I was walking to the library and as I passed the Alumni Association building, I noticed a polished granite marker that I had never seen before.  I realized that it was a memorial to Vietnam veterans and was extremely interested in the statement “Dedicated to all those who believe in freedom”. (Now that I’m thinking about it, it might have been some other variation of that, I just saw it walking past, but you get the point).  I was really moved by this because the whole Vietnam effort was driven by the love of freedom, even though it was misguided (I think).  Out of curiosity, I looked up the Alumni building on the UMASS website, which is actually called Memorial Hall.  Although I knew in the back on my head that this building was a memorial of sorts, I never really thought about it.  This is a perfect example of an educational memorial, so does it do the job?  Does anyone else consciously recognize this building for its real purpose or is it just overlooked as just another building on campus by most students?

Memorialization as Reparation, Education, and Deterrence

Memorials serve multiple purposes in the context of transitional justice. (See also the Multimedia section for links to many of the memorials or projects on them).

a) Reparations. Memorials honor victims, given them and their families a place to mourn, and display the truth (scope and nature) of their victimization. In this sense, memorials are considered a form of symbolic reparations. How they can “repair” on a social and psychological level is still in question, and depends on the extent to which victims are exposed to memorials, how the images and remains are displayed, and whether the narrative(s) of the memorial coincide with their individual memories.

b) Education. Memorials educate and raise awareness among the broader national community and the international community. The educational function of memorials raise the issue of whether a single narrative should be presented or whether memorials should give space to contested memories. Memorials also educate the broader community and foreigners about the causes and nature of the violence, which are often purposely obscured by those in power. Note in many places like Cambodia, South Africa, and Rwanda we can see memorial tourism. Some see this as exploitation whereas some see this as having an important educational value.

c) Deterrence. Displaying and educating about mass violence and disappearances also may contribute to conflict prevention – by reinforcing the “never again” message of memorials.  Reminders of who the victims are and their personal stories, the graphic nature of the violence, etc. can reinforce the necessity of co-existence and reconciliation.  Or if the memory presented is contested or one-sided, can it spark vengeance?

Questions: Which of these functions do you see as most important or feasible? Based on the examples we saw in class, how should memorials be designed to reach these different audience and achieve goals like reparations, education and deterrence?  Do you think that graphic images and untouched remains honor or offend the memory of victims?

Rwanda Genocide Memorial

The archive of the Rwanda genocide has been unveiled in the capitol city of Kigali. The memorial includes documents, recording, and photographs from survivors, offenders, and witnesses. The object of the memorial is to ensure that the 1994 genocide is not forgotten and that the horrific acts done to the Tutsi ethnic group. This idea of a memorial which was created by the Rwandan government but funded by a UK based group against humanity goal is to help heal the society, and also remembrance of the even could help to deter these horrific acts in the future. However by law it is illegal to dispute the governments official account of the genocide, and some believe that the President Paul Kagam has used this to oppress his opponents. Unfortunately, it is historical that government have corrupt actions, and I believe that making it illegal to dispute the governments accounts hinders the purpose of the memorial. I think that if this had been done by a neutral outer party, it would help to insure the people of all ethnic groups a that the memorial was being done accurately. According to the article the issue of genocide is still a highly controversial issue within Rwanda, and this detail may not help to keep the country at peace.