Why do we stop in front of terrorist attack memorials?

Politics on the street corner
Politics and civility around the November 13 memorials
By Sylvain Antichan

English

Based on quantitative data and ethnographic research conducted on the November 13 memorials, this article aims to answer a seemingly simple question: Why do individuals stop in front of these memorials? Alongside analyses in terms of “national communion,” “mourning,” or “resilience,” it aims to question the banality of these practices and their political significance. People who stop at memorials are not characterized by specific political attitudes or particularly strong connections to terrorist attacks. Their behaviors are shaped by ordinary interactions and their actions are defined by the material framework of memorials. This article argues that the political dimension of these practices lies in the physical presence and co-presence in these sites of memory. In these places, actors experience a “regime of civility” that breaks with the ordinary forms of interaction in the city. Memorials then appear as places of “positive rituals” that could be described as pure, that is, they do not necessarily produce lasting beliefs and behavioral changes, but they give participants the feeling that social relationships are transformed for an instant.

Keywords

  • politicization
  • citizenship
  • commemoration
  • ritual
  • memory
  • memorials
  • terrorist attacks
  • November 13
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