The concepts of monumentality and collective memory have not been neglected by discourses concerning national identity. However, insights favouring forgetting and counter-memory are considerably new approaches reconstructing identities and redressing tragedy after pronounced violence. Erecting monuments is often a strategy towards building and inciting public memory and defining the nation, but they can also be used as a means of masking histories and manipulating national narratives – this is seemingly the case in a number of post-war monuments throughout the former Yugoslavia.
The interplay between cultural heritage, memory, and space is a huge component of national identity; the installation of monuments memorializing non-Yugoslav celebrities throughout the newly defined states serve as a means to reconstitute identity, redefine heritage and avoid the celebration of a painful past. By consolidating existing theories on nationalism, identity and memory, this paper will examine the potential consequences of this manipulation of public space. Through a discussion of the way in which identities can strive to strategically avoid the state in the ‘non-commemoration’ of the nation and its inflicted traumas, I hope to demonstrate that the state is always present: That even through neglecting it – it is always referenced, that the framework of political sociology can operate, not just by identifying and treating the state as an actor, but also by simply acknowledging the state as spectre.
Image from Aleksandra Domanović’s Turbo Sculpture