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At the Limits of MemoryLegacies of Slavery in the Francophone World$
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Nicola Frith and Kate Hodgson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381595

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381595.001.0001

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The Art of Reconciliation

The Art of Reconciliation

The Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery in Nantes

(p.68) The Art of Reconciliation
At the Limits of Memory

Nicola Frith

Liverpool University Press

Chapter four, by Nicola Frith, examines the recent inauguration of the first permanent memorial to the history of slavery and its abolition in metropolitan France: the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery in Nantes. This large-scale artistic and architectural project is used as a case study to explore the wider debates that surround contemporary commemorative practices, as well as the ability of such memorial objects to mediate the often-divisive social memories of violence in a way that is ethically acceptable and meaningful in the present. Drawing from documents housed in the Direction du Patrimoine et de l’Archéologie in Nantes, this chapter pieces together the difficult processes involved in bringing a public memorial into existence, and highlights the multiple negotiations required to ensure that the final object upholds a state-centred discourse of republican patrimony, while recognizing France’s historical role in a crime against humanity. In this way, the memorial is seen as a cultural artefact of the difficult process of creating a memory that belongs to both state and citizen, and as a microcosm of the broader tensions relating to the visibility of minority identity within French society today.

Keywords:   Slavery, Nantes, Republicanism, Memorial, Memory, Wodiczko

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