The discourse of counter-monuments: semiotics of material commemoration in contemporary urban spaces

Natalia Krzyżanowska


This article analyses strategies of material commemoration in contemporary urban spaces. Deploying a philosophical and social-theoretical interpretation systematised by, in particular, Multimodal Critical Discourse Studies and its analysis of material commemoration, the article compares the semiotics of modes of commemorating through monuments and counter-monuments. As is argued, counter-monumental commemoration aligns much better than the traditionally static and non-dialogic monuments with the ongoing post-modern transformation and fluidity of contemporary urban spaces. By the same token, counter-monuments also allow commemoration of complex and difficult past events – such as the Holocaust – that are traditionally surrounded by multiple interpretations and often-conflicting attempts to commemorate them. The analysis at the core of the paper looks in-depth at counter-monumental installations known as Stolpersteine, or Stumbling Blocks, developed since the early 1990s by the German artist Gunter Demnig as a form of commemoration of victims of National Socialism and especially the Holocaust. As is suggested, counter-monuments such as the Stolpersteine carry multiple meanings and have multiple functions which allow for diverse patterns of interaction with past/present. They also allow embedding the dialogue between forms of commemoration (monument/counter-monument) various recipients (locals/tourists, spectators/passers-by) as well as their varied interpretations and expectations of commemoration in the discourse of contemporary urban space.
Author Natalia Krzyżanowska (WE / KSiF) - [Örebro University, Sweden]
Natalia Krzyżanowska,,
- Department of Sociology and Philosophy
- Örebro University, Sweden
Journal seriesSocial Semiotics, ISSN 1035-0330, (A 20 pkt)
Issue year2016
Publication size in sheets1
Keywords in EnglishCounter-monuments, monuments, collective memory, commemoration, remembrance, urban space
ASJC Classification1203 Language and Linguistics; 3310 Linguistics and Language; 3315 Communication; 3316 Cultural Studies
Languageen angielski
Score (nominal)20
Score sourcejournalList
ScoreMinisterial score = 15.0, 17-12-2019, ArticleFromJournal
Ministerial score (2013-2016) = 20.0, 17-12-2019, ArticleFromJournal
Publication indicators Scopus SNIP (Source Normalised Impact per Paper): 2016 = 1.249; WoS Impact Factor: 2016 = 0.484 (2) - 2016=0.725 (5)
Citation count*42 (2021-05-12)
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* presented citation count is obtained through Internet information analysis and it is close to the number calculated by the Publish or Perish system.
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