Meaning falls apart: anagrammatical Blackness and memorialization at the museum

Authors: Bradley Hinger*, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Ethnic Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: Memory, Whiteness, Racism, Landscape, Memorialization
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Roosevelt 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded



This paper uses Christina Sharpe’s concept of “annagramatical blackness” to explore the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as an example of what I will term the anagramatical landscape. Sharpe writes that blackness annagramatically shifts people, places, and words into new times and spaces. Freedom Center is a museum located in Cincinnati, Ohio dedicated to telling the story of American slavery as well as other stories of civil and human rights. I examine the Freedom Center as more than a museum but as memorial because of its geographic location as well as its situation within the wider American geographic imagination as a “National” site. Content analysis of TripAdvisor reviews by white visitors shows that these people struggle with their preconceived notions about what stories are being told and for who they are being told. Using Sharpe’s idea that when words come up against blackness meaning falls apart, I look at the Freedom Center as an anagramatical space. White reviewers fear they may not have access to because of its inherent blackness. It is only when they reposition whiteness within the narrative or, as Sharpe writes, “redact” blackness, and decode space through epistemological whiteness, that the memorial landscape becomes comprehensible. Throught this framework, I use the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as an example of how geographers might expand upon the idea of the anagramatical landscape to understand opposition to memorial work that centers blackness.

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