Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering

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University of California Press, Feb 28, 1997 - Social Science - 375 pages
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Analyzing the ways U.S. culture has been formed and transformed in the 80s and 90s by its response to the Vietnam War and the AIDS epidemic, Marita Sturken argues that each has disrupted our conventional notions of community, nation, consensus, and "American culture." She examines the relationship of camera images to the production of cultural memory, the mixing of fantasy and reenactment in memory, the role of trauma and survivors in creating cultural comfort, and how discourses of healing can smooth over the tensions of political events.

Sturken's discussion encompasses a brilliant comparison of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the AIDS Quilt; her profound reading of the Memorial as a national wailing wall—one whose emphasis on the veterans and war dead has allowed the discourse of heroes, sacrifice, and honor to resurface at the same time that it is an implicit condemnation of war—is particularly compelling. The book also includes discussions of the Kennedy assassination, the Persian Gulf War, the Challenger explosion, and the Rodney King beating. While debunking the image of the United States as a culture of amnesia, Sturken also shows how remembering itself is a form of forgetting, and how exclusion is a vital part of memory formation.

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Camera Images and National Meanings
The Wall and the Screen Memory The Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Reenactment and the Making of History The Vietnam War as Docudrama
Spectacles of Memory and Amnesia Remembering the Persian Gulf War
AIDS and the Politics of Representation
Conversations with the Dead Bearing Witness in the AIDS Memorial Quilt
Bodies of Commemoration The Immune System and HIV

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Page 10 - ... technologies of the self, which permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and a way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality" (Foucault 1988: 18; italics mine).
Page 8 - I have sought to suggest that this value attached to narrativity in the representation of real events arises out of a desire to have real events display the coherence, integrity, fullness, and closure of an image of life that is and can only be imaginary.

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About the author (1997)

Marita Sturken is Assistant Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California.

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