Paul Gough- ‘Certain Places, Uncertain Futures’: Rhetorical Topographies and Poetic Opportunities

In European cities memory and identity are inextricably linked through the ordering and naming of spaces and the placing of monuments, memorials and other icons of rhetorical topography. In our over-furnished urban centres real and false memory is incised into the city wherever we look, sometimes as an act of genuine national solidarity, sometimes to underwrite a concocted or contrived civic narrative, at other times as an apparent affirmation of local identity.

However, that which is designed to provide a locus of ‘inclusion’ also equally proclaims exclusion; power (as Foucault argued) creates its own points of resistance. Our cities are wrought by political and territorial dispute; the statues, inscriptions, street signs, commemorative plaques and memorials rarely located without complex negotiation, even open dispute because the rivalries for mnemonic space is nearly always fierce and dramatic with political tensions played out vicariously through the siting of civic markers that espouse esteem and status.

Drawing upon memorial landscapes in the UK and overseas, Paul Gough explores the topographies of memory and remembrance, and offers some provocations on why we choose to remember or forget, what we choose to include or leave out, and how we address the ‘anxiety of erasure’ that haunts so many of us.

‘Certain Places, Uncertain Futures’: Rhetorical Topographies and Poetic Opportunities was presented as part of The Monument and the Changing City symposium.