Experiencing memorial space in "a Land of Refuge"

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Lauzon, Robb Conrad
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Electronic thesis
Communication and rhetoric
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This dissertation explores how a nation’s identity becomes inscribed in memorial spaces and how these spaces are experienced by citizens. I argue that understanding the composition of memorial spaces and how individuals experience these spaces is as important as debates that concern a memorial’s symbolism. Here, memorial space is conceived of as a medium that aids in the production of national identity through the experiences that it engenders. Ottawa’s Memorial to the Victims of Communism—Canada, a Land of Refuge serves as a focal point for exploring how space is constructed and then how it comes to be experienced by Canadian citizens. This project views memorials and memorial spaces as a set of mnemonic technologies that enable civic education. Furthermore, I view embodiment as an important area of investigation for rhetorical studies. I am particularly concerned with how national values are transmitted through the built environment and eventually incorporated by citizens who experience these memorial spaces. In part one of this project, I provide an analysis of archival materials to demonstrate how memorial space is inscribed with meaning. Here, I present Ottawa’s urban planning documents as evidence of the role that politics plays in shaping memorial space. These documents reveal the role that ambient characteristics of the built environment serve in shaping meaning of memorial space.
Additionally, I present the controversy surrounding the Memorial to the Victims of Communism as evidence of the public’s role in shaping the physical character of memorial space. Specifically, the controversy surrounding the siting of the memorial demonstrates how public opposition to placing the memorial in front of Canada’s Supreme Court resulted in the eventual re-siting of the memorial at the Garden of the Provinces and Territories. I argue that this controversy demonstrates the influence of the public on the character of the built environment. Ultimately, this analysis revealed the value that Canadians place on public consultation. In part two, I offer some theoretical considerations that detail the role of sensory enculturation in aiding our perception. Here, I highlight Bergson’s metaphor of constructed memory to illustrate the role of memories of past experiences in shaping immediate perceptions.
I argue that through an intellectual conception of space we are able to explore how experiences shape our imaginations and experiences of actual space. I believe that a scholarly focus on sensation enables this type of inquiry. From here, I detail the methods that I employed to apprehend the lived experiences of my research participants. Through sensory ethnography that included participant observation and ethnographic interviews, I was able to collect a rich set of data for an analysis of memorial space at the Garden of the Provinces and Territories. My analysis of field recordings revealed an emphasis on the “overwhelming nature” found in Canada’s wilderness that happens to but up against Ottawa and the capital region. Attunement to this constructive tension between Canadian wilderness and urban environments helped to shaped perceptions of the memorial space. Participants characterized their experiences of the memorial pace as “boring,” “peaceful,” and “solitary.” I conclude that these experiences enabled Canadians to develop abstract notions of inhabitation. These notions serve as an experiential foundation for more complex expressions of bodily autonomy and inclusivity. From these observations, I argue that Canadian notions of multiculturalism are built on the aforementioned characterizations of memorial space. An enculturation of the senses through such experiences enables ever more complex abstractions about inhabitation (e.g., “a Land of Refuge”).
May 2018
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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