Spatial Affect and Counter-Memory: the Commemorative Practices of the Iran-Iraq War in its Mnemonic Sites

Authors: Mahshid Zandi*, University of Toronto
Topics: Landscape, Political Geography, Religion
Keywords: affect, counter-memory, space production, commemorative practices, war
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Roosevelt 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper seeks to examine the relationship between memory, space, subjectivity, religion, and the state, through an ethnography of state-sponsored fieldtrips to the Iran-Iraq War battlefields and Tehran’s Holy Defense Museum as part of schools’ extracurricular activities in contemporary Iran. I investigate the state’s pedagogies of commemorative practices in war-related mnemonic spaces, not just as informal platforms for teaching/learning, but as modes of religiopolitical governance and world-making that call for further exploration in relation to spatiality. Tours to the battlefields present war landscapes as sites of victimhood, insecurity, and vulnerability (Ashplant 2013). Emptiness of these geographies, seem to epitomize the negativity of war destruction, while the museum in Tehran celebrates the state power in reconfiguring the space with a fully modern construction. I found this spatial unevenness an affective means of promoting war landscapes and battlefields as zones of sacrifice and victimhood (Sheldrake 2001; Kuletz 2001), and the museum as indication of claimed triumph indebted to those sacrifice. I approach the mnemonic sites of the Iran-Iraq War in Iran both as discursive and affective strategies of exclusion and division (Agamben, 2009; Althusser 2006; Strathern 1998), and as means of provoking and actualizing potentialities and possibilities sedimented in relics of the past that go beyond the state’s objectives. They evoke discrepancies, haunting and unactualized inheritances, undesirable subjectivities, and counter-memories that await, in Walter Benjamin’s words, “the day of redemption or recognition” (Benjamin 1964; Merleau-Ponty 1962; Wollin 1994).

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