We will re-member them: Muslims in the British and French World War I centenary
Tinsley, Meghan Elizabeth
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This dissertation examines the representation of Muslim colonial subjects in British and French commemorations of World War I. This conflict, widely remembered as a European civil war fought in the trenches of Flanders, remains a catalyst for constructing national identity in post-imperial, multicultural Britain and France. Drawing from theories of nationalism, collective memory, and race, I pose the following questions: first, how does memory change when the nation seeks to encompass members who previously had been excluded? Second, how do transgressive sites of memory unsettle the nation? Third, under what conditions are transgressive narratives of collective memory constructed? My methodology consists of a content analysis of sites and commemorations; archival research; and semi-structured interviews with stakeholders. I find, with regard to representation, that national commemorations seek to restore national unity by inverting traditions of collective memory. At the local level, national differences dissolve; sites of memory in each country produced narratives of mourning, re-memory, and melancholia. While the former two narratives restore national unity, the third unsettles the nation in three ways: first, by highlighting the historical interdependence of metropolis and empire, they challenge the idea that the nation is a discrete entity. Second, by highlighting the interconnectedness of those who belong, those who do not belong, and those whose status is contested, they disrupt the idea of the nation as a compact between citizens. Finally, by revealing the history of passive forgetting and deliberate erasure in the service of national memory, they disturb the common memory of the nation. In order to construct a narrative of melancholia, I argue that three factors are necessary: individual intentions, access to resources, and an unencumbered physical form. These findings hold implications for theory in three ways. First, I draw attention to collective memory as a means of unsettling moral unity. Second, I analyze the relationship between nationalism and memory through the lens of postcolonial theory, bringing a social scientific perspective to the literature on postcolonial memory. Third, I contribute to the literature on cultural production by emphasizing the cultural process of unsettling memory.