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The Grounds of Gallipoli: Earthy memory and the collapse of place and time

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This article deals with the meanings and agencies of earth in the making of memory. We consider the role of the soil at the Gallipoli peninsula, in today’s Turkey, a key First World War battlefield and a nodal point of national memories, especially for Australia, New Zealand and Turkey. Informed by more-than-human approaches to heritage and memory and drawing on contemporary site visits as well as historical sources, we discuss the Gallipoli peninsula as a landscape freighted with earthy memory in multiple ways: with the bodies of the dead of 1915; the material deposits and earthworks of the conflict; the memory practices undertaken relationally between people and nation states; and the weight of international diplomacies in the making and remaking of geopolitical orders and claims. In all of this, the ground is both supremely tangible and extremely abstract, making it a most potent agent in memory practices. We are interested in how groups claim ownership of, and control over, the ground; the many ways in which the earth comes to matter, including why and how it moves, how far, and through what forms of transfer; and in the scalar zoom of perception and imagination that allows memory to take different forms. We explore these interrelations through attention to processes of what we call ‘formation’ and ‘activation’ of the earth, arguing that they often work to set up mitigations or collapses of distance – geographically and temporally – through different memorial and museum practices and rituals. In our analysis, however, such attempts to create collapses, or ‘wormholes’, through which the faraway Gallipoli can somehow be felt and grasped, are ultimately doomed to fail, as spatial and temporal distances inevitably seem to re-assert themselves as brutal and unbrookable gulfs.
TidsskriftMemory Studies
Sider (fra-til)1-24
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 2023

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