State aesthetics and the Other–Nature in disaster memorials
Critique of Anthropology
I examine the aesthetic (re)production of the state in disaster museums and memorials in a comparative analysis of the Wenchuan Earthquake Memorial in Beichuan, China, and the September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. I explore how particular national imaginaries and narratives of the past were projected to produce narratives that cloak the chaos of catastrophe and channel powerful public emotions into a robust state imaginary operating heroically on an Other-Nature-Disaster without history. In China, the state is embodied by conventional faces of the state apparatus. By contrast, in New York, such leaders are notably absent. Instead, the focus is on “heroic” first responders that I argue constitute devolved encounters with the state—neither faceless nor portrayed by official leaders, but instead embodied by neighbors, friends, and everyday heroes. In both contexts, I find similar techniques of producing aesthetic assemblages within which, whether the proximal agent of suffering be human or no, any purportedly external perturbation creates a crisis of state integrity that is discursively cloaked in the language of the Nature of the Other and this is partially accomplished by enframing emergencies in carefully delimited timeframes.
Disaster, Memorial, Memory, Nature, State
A. J. Faas. "State aesthetics and the Other–Nature in disaster memorials" Critique of Anthropology (2023): 3-23. https://doi.org/10.1177/0308275X231156709