Memorials and the Cult of Apology


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




In 2004, when Argentina’s president apologized for crimes committed by the state during the last military dictatorship, he also inaugurated a new memorial. Fixing his words in stone, he expropriated a 42-acre lot from the navy to transform it into a so-called memory campus. Memorials like this one embody more than memory: they are built as symbols of remorse or reparation. This dissertation traces this emerging phenomenon by examining the cult of apology through its global manifestation in memorials. Through four representative case studies in Berlin, Buenos Aires, and San Francisco, it builds an empirical and theoretical understanding of multiple aspects of apology and memorialization, the actors involved in it, the material forms that it takes, and the diverse effects that it produces.