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Studia Phaenomenologica

Volume 19, 2019

On Conflict and Violence

Irene Breuer
Pages 153-174

Phenomenological Reflections on the Intertwining of Violence, Place and Memory
The Memorials of the Ungraspable

Acts of violence develop in relation to place and involve the violation of its very limits. Every significant place is a scene of history, its limits embrace presence and sense. As such, it is the life-worldly home of memory. In this article, I will retrieve the bodily affective dimension of the phenomenon of place memory in instances of public commemoration. Drawing on different philosophical horizons like those of mainly Heidegger, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Adorno, Ricoeur and Bataille, I’ll contrast their different perspectives on the question of the intertwining of violence, place and memory and refer them to the narrative work of memorials (e.g. Libeskind’s and Eisenman’s for Berlin). Insofar violence has been traditionally represented and thereby obliterated by architecture, we may ask how should genocide, as the unspeakable and ungraspable be expressed? I’ll suggest that it can only be attained by the suspension of meaning and presence: A narrative of bodily affections, of pathos, suffering and excess that accounts for what in itself remains beyond expression.

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