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Fear and Loathing in Monuments: Rethinking the Politics and Practices of Monumentality and Monumentalization

Wednesday, April 6, 6:00 pm7:00 pm

Blonde woman leans on a brick wall, smiling

Kaitlin M. Murphy, chair, director of Graduate Studies, and associate professor in the Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory graduate interdisciplinary program at the University of Arizona.



Monuments—and the function and import of monumentality and practices of monumentalization—are currently under incredible scrutiny. Should historical statues to racist figures and pasts be left as they are or removed and destroyed? Should they be re-homed in statue parks intended as final resting places for disgraced statues? Or should they be left but with additional monuments and memorials added to their surroundings to provide further context? At the root of these debates is a fundamental inquiry about not just what monuments are but, more importantly, what monuments are intended to do for and within a body politic. Murphy argues that monuments function as speech acts, and although they rarely speak for an entire body politic, monuments play a critical visual role in shaping historical narratives and cultural reckoning with racist, violent pasts and their lived afterlives. Thus, while in many respects backward-facing, monuments are also profoundly future-facing in the values and narratives they visually symbolize and articulate and the kinds of spaces and community practices they can help cultivate.



Kaitlin M. Murphy is chair, director of Graduate Studies, and associate professor in the Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory graduate interdisciplinary program at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Mapping Memory: Visuality, Affect, and Embodied Politics in the Americas (Fordham UP), co-editor of the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Memory Activism, and currently at work on two book-length projects, the first of which is tentatively titled Future Histories: Memory, Violence, and Decolonial Reimaginings. Murphy received her Ph.D. in performance studies and M.A. in visual culture, both from New York University.


Speaker series:

This virtual presentation is part of the 2021-2022 virtual speaker series “Experiencing Images: How the Visual Shapes Our World,” which features distinguished speakers who explore individual and collective engagement with photography, a medium that defines visual culture. Through decoding this visual landscape, we become conscious of how we use images to construct identity and meaning. The lectures in this series will address themes including photography exhibitions and civic spectatorship, surveillance, and the construction of race, image production, and representation, and trauma and memory. The series is curated by Holly Filsinger, graduate student in visual culture. The series is hosted by Illinois State University Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts and is supported and co-sponsored by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies, University Galleries of Illinois State University, the School of Communication, the Department of English, the Department of History, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. Virtual lectures via Zoom are free and open to the public. If you need a special accommodation to fully participate in this program/event, please contact hefilsi@ilstu.edu. Please allow sufficient time to arrange the accommodation.


Wednesday, April 6
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm