Faculty Publications

Oppositional Memory Practices: U.S. Memorial Spaces As Arguments Over Public Memory

Document Type



Fetterman Battlefield, grievability, Haymarket Square, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, memory, oppositional memory practice, visual argument

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Argumentation and Advocacy





First Page


Last Page



This essay analyzes three highly-contested sacred spaces: Fetterman Battlefield, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and Haymarket Square. Each was consecrated by the blood of the fallen, each was marked with a monument enshrining a particular narrative of its history, and each has been the site of sustained argument over who should be remembered. Therefore, each enables us to explore the visual argumentation of monuments, the functions of argument in sacred space, the use of sacred space to expand communal boundaries, the relation between mourning and blood consecration, and the ways in which visual argument may open, or close, consideration of who is deemed human and worthy of remembrance. By focusing on attempts to rebut specific arguments made by existing monuments, we uncover the possibilities of memory technologies designed to correct, expand upon, or contradict previous monuments. We reveal oppositional memory practices by demonstrating how public arguments, made on/with particular sacred spaces and in particular times, evolve. Monuments' attempts to stabilize particular histories can be refitted in diverse ways, including: interpretive plaques that access counter histories and punctuate a space with interruptions; subsequent counter-monuments that “answer back” to the original; and even destruction and/or replacement. Our examples demonstrate that, often, monuments' arguments are answered by expanding the lives that count as grievable, thereby opening spaces in which public grief may be made more inclusive.


Department of Communication and Media

Original Publication Date


DOI of published version