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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Aesthetics of Remembering 9/11: Towards a Transnational Typology of Memorials


A decade after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, all three sites of violent impact have seen the dedication of national memorials to the victims. Hundreds of memorials have appeared in less likely places in the United States and around the world. This article offers an analysis of international 9/11 memorials along the lines of Michael Rothberg, as “a complementary centrifugal mapping that charts the outward movement of American power.” It traces well-established memorial aesthetics, such as walls and statues, in a selection of 9/11 memorials located in the United States, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Israel. Richard Gray’s hypothesis, that no fundamental change occurred in American prose writing, the works rather “assimilate the unfamiliar into familiar structures,” lends itself to examine 9/11 memorial aesthetics. In fact, despite the proclaimed sense of historical rupture, we do not witness great innovations of memorial design but a continuation of known patterns: modernist minimalism augmented by figural representations.

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