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Elijah Gaddis @ejgaddis
, 13 tweets, 2 min read Read on Twitter
With the removal of Silent Sam last night from the grounds of the people's university in North Carolina, I thought that I might reflect a bit on the practices of contextualization that I still see being advocated for this and other monuments like it. 1/12
I don't see a lot of people talking about what contextualization actually would mean or taking into account the spatial intent behind these monuments when advocating for contextualization. 2/12
These statues are literally monumental, and intended to dominant the landscape around them to such an extent that they assert themselves into the spatial practices (walking, marching, eventually driving,) of everyone in their proximity.3/12
A wonderful example of that near to Chapel Hill is the Oxford, NC memorial which once stood in the very center of the town. Emancipation Day marchers in 1910 wrote about their having to march past this statue during the one time of the year they could use the streets freely 4/12
(Incidentally, this statue has been moved to a place which reflects the contemporary plan and use of the town in some really troubling ways. But you'll have to wait for the piece I'm writing on that to hear more!) 5/12
Or, there's the monument in my current town of Montgomery, Alabama. It sits in a processional line with Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. 6/12
Churchgoers have always had to deal with the looming presence of one of the tallest Confederate monuments in the South as they entered, exited, or walked to their church. 7/12
So, how would you contextualize that? A plaque doesn't do it because it has to be read. And even if it is read, the monument is still there in its prominent, dominant role in the landscape. 8/12
You can meet monumentality with further monumentality as they've attempted and failed to do at UNC with the Unsung Founders Memorial (this is a judgement of its spatial utility, not necessarily its artistic quality)9/12
But again, there's the persistence of this statue which exists both in memory and in a material state. (10/12)
On these grounds, I'd argue that removal is necessary before we begin the important process of contextualization. (11/12)
You can't begin to contextualize something (at least not in the absence of a transformative event, i.e. the Edmund Pettus bridge and Bloody Sunday) as long as it is still doing active harm. 12/12
And you particularly can't contextualize things which by their very nature intend to decontextualize the landscape around them, as these monuments were built to do. (Bonus, I misnumbered)
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