Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero

Front Cover
Duke University Press, Nov 1, 2007 - History - 344 pages
1 Review
In Tourists of History, the cultural critic Marita Sturken argues that over the past two decades, Americans have responded to national trauma through consumerism, kitsch sentiment, and tourist practices in ways that reveal a tenacious investment in the idea of America’s innocence. Sturken investigates the consumerism that followed from the September 11th attacks; the contentious, ongoing debates about memorials and celebrity-architect designed buildings at Ground Zero; and two outcomes of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City: the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the execution of Timothy McVeigh.

Sturken contends that a consumer culture of comfort objects such as World Trade Center snow globes, FDNY teddy bears, and Oklahoma City Memorial t-shirts and branded water, as well as reenactments of traumatic events in memorial and architectural designs, enables a national tendency to see U.S. culture as distant from both history and world politics. A kitsch comfort culture contributes to a “tourist” relationship to history: Americans can feel good about visiting and buying souvenirs at sites of national mourning without having to engage with the economic, social, and political causes of the violent events. While arguing for the importance of remembering tragic losses of life, Sturken is urging attention to a dangerous confluence—of memory, tourism, consumerism, paranoia, security, and kitsch—that promulgates fear to sell safety, offers prepackaged emotion at the expense of critical thought, contains alternative politics, and facilitates public acquiescence in the federal government’s repressive measures at home and its aggressive political and military policies abroad.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

Tourists of history: memory, kitsch, and consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This engaging book probes the impact of two traumatic historical events, the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Oklahoma City bombing, from a novel perspective. Sturken seeks to illuminate ... Read full review

Contents

CONSUMING FEAR AND SELLING COMFORT
35
CITIZENS AND SURVIVORS Cultural Memory and Oklahoma City
93
THE SPECTACLE OF DEATH AND THE SPECTACLE OF GRIEF The Execution of Timothy McVeigh
139
TOURISM AND SACRED GROUND The Space of Ground Zero
165
ARCHITECTURES OF GRIEF AND THE AESTHETICS OF ABSENCE
219
CONCLUSION
287
NOTES
295
BIBLIOGRAPHY
319
INDEX
333
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2007)

Marita Sturken is a professor of culture and communication at New York University. She is the author of Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering and a coauthor of Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture.

Bibliographic information