The Aftermath: Memorialization, Storytelling, and Walking at the 9/11 Tribute Center
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CitationDeconinck, Kate Yanina. 2015. The Aftermath: Memorialization, Storytelling, and Walking at the 9/11 Tribute Center. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Divinity School.
AbstractLocated in the heart of Lower Manhattan, the 9/11 Tribute Center is a small memorial museum that commemorates the attacks of September 11, 2001, and their aftermath. Tribute’s five small galleries house numerous exhibits and artifacts; however, this museum is most widely recognized for its daily walking tours, which are led by individuals who hold direct connections to the attacks. These docents—who include survivors, first responders, rescue and recovery workers, local residents, and family members of the deceased—share historical information, statistics, and their own stories as they lead visitors around the new World Trade Center site.
Drawing from four years of ethnographic research and interviews at this memorial museum, my dissertation argues that Tribute has been a site of profound meaning making for many individuals struggling to gain purchase on an event that shattered their lives. I employ an existential and phenomenological approach to show how everyday acts of memorialization, storytelling, and walking have allowed individuals to cultivate a sense of agency and restore intersubjective bonds. Case studies also illuminate the complex interplay between personal memory and collective memory at this site as docents attempt to navigate the space between private and public realms.
In analyzing the continual negotiation of memory and discourse, I reveal how tensions can inhere when individual and official framings of the past diverge. Particular attention is given to the ambiguous place of religious narratives, histories, and interpretations of the past at Tribute, an institution that strives to remain religiously and politically neutral. I analyze the reasons why Tribute’s leaders have attempted to prohibit conversations about religion from their site while also pointing to some of the consequences—both individual and social—of their framing.
Ultimately, this dissertation makes two important contributions to the field of Religious Studies. First, this work moves beyond conventional frames of reference to analyze the manifold resources (whether conventionally called “religious” or not) upon which humans draw to reconstruct viable lives in the wake of a trauma. And, second, it examines how institutional ideas about religion can shape exhibits, tours, and larger public perceptions of an event.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:15821956