Can We Memorialize Without Monuments?

By Chris Lowe (August 28, 2017)

Can intercultural gardens be an alternative to Confederate monuments to the past?

A friend of mine observed that as the movement to remove or relocate Confederate monuments goes on, it will change spaces and create new spaces.

The implication is that even while we work on this, we should also be thinking about what if anything we want to fill that space with.

What *should* we memorialize? What do we want to be remembered for memorializing? Could it take forms other than monuments?

For decades, I have preferred the idea of interculturalism to multiculturalism, because I understand culture as living process, not a dead thing, in which we exercise agency in choices about how we make meaning. Even within traditions, the act of passing, which what the Latin root of ‘tradition’ means, always involves choices of what is passed, what is not, what people work to recover. Creativity is sparked by inspiration derived from cultural appreciation, exchange, and recontextualized elements, creation of hybrid forms, grafting.

Interculturalism for me is also connected to the opposition of monoculture to historical and contemporary pre- or non-capitalist systems of intercropping by which agriculturalists managed their land and food systems to sustain the land and themselves. It is possible to romanticize that history, but I don’t think the problem of creating a sustainable economic ecology can be thought about sensibly without engaging it.

So one idea I have for memorialization would be intercultural gardens, situational gardens, allegorical gardens, relating to what we want to remember and the values we want to express or raise up. Gardens that would be living as culture is living, processes as culture is process, practices as culture is practices. Gardens that would be open and open ended, amenable to new additions, or to revisions and adjustments, as circumstances and understandings change.

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