Memorials of all kinds are flourishing in America today. Just in the past few decades, thousands of new memorials to executed witches, enslaved Africans, victims of terrorism, victims of lynching, dead astronauts, U.S. soldiers, and cancer survivors, among others, have materialized in the American landscape. Equally ubiquitous are temporary memorials such as roadside shrines and public displays of grief built immediately at the sites of tragic and traumatic death.
Art historian Erika Doss discusses this phenomenon as memorial mania: an obsession with issues of memory and history and the urgent desire to express, and claim, those issues in visibly public contexts. Driven by heated struggles over self-definition, national purpose, and the politics of representation, memorial mania is especially shaped by the fevered pitch of public feeling in America today, including grief, gratitude, fear, shame, and anger.
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