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Carving Out an Identity: The Monument aux Morts in Republican Strasbourg


War memorials serve as powerful sites of memory, symbols around which collective identity is

developed. Strasbourg’s monument aux morts is no exception, yet in content it is unique among

French monuments to the First World War. The monument aux morts depicts a mother mourning

over her two dying sons, who fought on opposing sides of the conflict. My project addresses

themes of commemoration, borderland identity, and public spectacle. It seeks to show how

Strasbourg’s unique geopolitical position, caught between the German Empire and the Third

Republic, contributed to its public representation of its wartime experience. Moreover, drawing

on the concept of invented tradition, I posit that the monument’s 1936 inauguration

ceremony served the ritual function of symbolically integrating the citizens of Strasbourg into

the French Republic – a process which was negotiated between national center and periphery.

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