Geographies of Regenerative Memory Work: Examining the Equal Justice Initiative and Strategies for the Future of the American South

Authors: Rebecca Sheehan*, Oklahoma State University, Jordan Brasher, Columbus State University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Social Geography, History of Geography
Keywords: Equal Justice Initiative, Memory-work, Regenerative Memorialization, US South
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 22
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Recent years have marked a reinvigoration of public interest in memorialization of US Southern public spaces. Yet for some, an overemphasis on Southern pasts forecloses future-oriented work concerning how the South and its environments, communities, and spaces might be reformed through memory-work. Accordingly, the problem of memorialization in the US South (and beyond) has been one of stasis, where memorialization is generally not only set materially in the landscape but also in terms of the overlapping associated discourse and practices. Research in memorialization has not explicitly examined the potential of interrogating this problem dynamically. In response, building on work in cultural geography that foregrounds the importance of memorial landscapes for building socially just futures, we offer an intervention into geographies of Southern memory that advances the idea of regenerative memorialization. In this paper we bring together the hope of regenerative development with literatures in mobilities broadly and actor network theory specifically to elaborate a regenerative memorialization paradigm. We apply this paradigm to the dynamic cultural geographies of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama – an organization that works to commemorate the legacy of racial terrorism in the United States – as a case study to illustrate our intervention. Drawing on interviews, participant-observation, autoethnographic methods, and EJI documents, we argue that regenerative memorialization offers pathways for sociocultural capacity-building and racial healing through memory-work.

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