Sites for commemoration : trauma, memory and practice of reconciliation

Mahn, Churnjeet and Murphy, Anne and Rao K.V., Raghavendra (2017) Sites for commemoration : trauma, memory and practice of reconciliation. In: 19th General Assembly and Scientific Symposium "Heritage and Democracy", 2017-12-11 - 2017-12-15, India Habitat Centre.

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This paper proceeds from a concern for how memories continue to be both allowed for and erased within and in relation to experiences of trauma and exclusion. We focus on two quite distinctive sites for memory-making, to allow for productive comparison: firstly, memorial locations located along and across the Indo-Pakistan border, with reference to the "larger Punjab" (in cultural, religious, and linguistic terms) that is so easily erased from the memorial landscape in adherence to national and nationalizing boundaries; and secondly, experiences of trauma within and in relation to Canadian nationbuilding, which includes both experiences of trauma for those excluded from the national imaginary (such as the indigenous people of Canada, and other racialized and marginalized communities) and the experiences of trauma that have brought so many to Canada in search of refuge. The paper is centred on practice, as well as theory, and is constructed around two projects that aim to foster reconciliation through and within memory work: (1) a recent project conducted at a tourist site in Sirhind, Punjab to think about how the historical lives of monuments are censored and erased, and a related ongoing project to foster memories of pre-partition shared cultural traditions in post-partition Indian Punjab in light of the 70th anniversary of Partition, and (2) a project entitled "Trauma, Memory and the Story of Canada," a series of art exhibitions, interpretation events, and theatrical production that explores the "difficult stories" that comprise the story of Canada at the 150th commemoration of the Confederation of Canada; this latter project has been funded through a major grant from the Canada 150 Fund from Canadian Heritage and was conceptualized by the South Asian Canadian Histories Association (SACHA), a collective of artists, arts professionals, and scholars who seek to integrate historical research and the arts in public-facing projects. These parallel anniversaries--of the founding of India and Canada--allow us an opportunity to consider what is at stake in commemorations, and what conditions of possibility can allow for reconciliation in relation to our troubled pasts.