Performing remembrances of 9/11
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The attacks of 11 September 2001 have had a profound impact for many, altering lives, perceptions, politics and policies. The last decade saw the construction of numerous memorials commemorating the events across the United States. Most prominent is the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City at Ground Zero. Highly contested in its planning and building stages, the memorial site was designed to be a national symbol of mourning, remembrance and resiliency, and has since become one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. This thesis casts the matter of memorialising 9/11 as a performance of remembering. It utilises an analytical frame that draws from theoretical resources of collective memory and performance studies to examine how and by whom public remembrances of the event are framed, performed and maintained. Theories of social remembering render it an active process. A performance lens used analytically allows for a recognition of commemorative practices not as a mode of representation, but rather as a doing, (en)acting and interacting in the moment. By understanding public remembrance as performance, this thesis explores the implications of thinking about public memory in those terms. Through ethnographic methods the research unpacks the doing of public memory in three scenarios, each with their own setting and cast of characters, and interprets how, if and when individuals subscribe to the public and/or official memory of the events being memorialised. The first is set at the 9/11 memorial. Although the performances at the memorial site occur in an institutionalised, scripted and choreographed environment, the bodily (en)acting of and at the site can shift complex boundaries and commemorative narratives. The second provides the example of commemorative walking/ running events as performed remembering. These public processions are ritual-like (re)enactments that solidify and reaffirm the politicised national commemorative master narrative of 9/11. Lastly, the annual ritual of commemoration on the anniversary of 9/11 highlights and intensifies the separation of official and vernacular public memory and shows how in both settings organisers and actors utilise embodied performance strategies to gain or regain visibility in the public sphere.