Book Reviews

RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage reviews books, reports, new periodicals, databases, websites, blogs, and other electronic resources, as well as exhibition, book, and auction catalogs pertaining directly and indirectly to the fields of rare book librarianship, manuscripts curatorship, archives management, and special collections administration. Publishers, librarians, and archivists are asked to send appropriate publications for review or notice to the Reviews Editor.

Due to space limitations, it may not be possible for all books received to be reviewed in RBM. Books or publication announcements should be sent to the Reviews Editor: Amy Cooper Cary, Raynor Memorial Library, Marquette University, 1415 W. Wisconsin Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53233-2221, e-mail: amy.cary@marquette.edu, (414) 288-5901.

Nicholas S. Paliewicz and Marouf Hasian Jr. The Securitization of Memorial Space: Rhetoric and Public Memory. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2019. Hardcover, 312p. $50.00 (ISBN 9781496215550).

In The Securitization of Memorial Space: Rhetoric and Public Memory, Nicholas S. Paliewicz and Marouf Hasian Jr. train a darkly analytical lens on New York City’s Ground Zero in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and the debate around how to memorialize the events of that day. The authors explore how various objects at Ground Zero were infused with political meaning and deployed like weapons by myriad actors in both the smaller battle for control of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and the larger Global War on Terror. Hasian and Paliewicz are writing from backgrounds in rhetorical and critical security studies, and at times their writing can be a little opaque to those not fluent in the vocabulary of those fields. The authors also describe their approach as “object oriented,” a methodology that should sound familiar to anyone working in special collections today (23).

Here, the objects Paliewicz and Hasian are interested in are those that were left behind at and around the site of the former World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, from huge pieces of twisted structural metal, to a damaged New York Fire Department truck; the toxic dust that covered much of Lower Manhattan for weeks; flowers and stuffed animals left as makeshift memorials took root. The reader is encouraged to think about the ways in which objects simultaneously “incite remembrance and encourage forgetfulness” (23).

While Paliewicz and Hasian spend a lot of time discussing the politics surrounding what they term the resecuritization of Ground Zero, their discussion of the use of objects to tell a story raises important questions for those of us working with objects in library and museum contexts. When a tragedy on the scale of September 11 strikes, who gets to decide how we remember, and why? Which objects are salvaged and memorialized in the service of that remembrance, and which objects are left out? The authors argue, persuasively, that the initial impromptu memorials that sprang up around Lower Manhattan were made up of objects that were deemed dangerous because they weren’t being deployed in service of the correct, hegemonic memory, as agreed upon by politicians and government officials. Too many stories were being told, too many ways of remembering were being represented. It wasn’t until these objects were removed and represented in the context of the Memorial Museum that they were deemed safe, “securitized,” having taken on a new political meaning in service of the singular official narrative of what happened, and why, on September 11, 2001. In the new, securitized memorial space, mourning had been weaponized. Ultimately, the authors argue, the entire World Trade Center master site was deliberately manipulated away from being a site of multidirectional memory and healing and toward being a site of hegemonic memory meant to bolster public support for a war.

The stakes around storytelling at the National September 11 Memorial Museum are particularly high, but the questions raised by Paliewicz and Hasian’s case study are worth considering beyond the walls of that singular institution. The authors spend a good amount of time considering the various local communities affected by the events of September 11—World Trade Center employees and their families, New York City first responders, residents of Lower Manhattan—and how their voices were, or weren’t, heard during the memorialization process. Indeed, some of those most affected were not sold on the merits of a permanent memorial, let alone an attendant museum. Perhaps most saliently, Paliewicz and Hasian ask, “Who is going to help residents mourn and bring closure to this trauma in situations where the institutional authorities may not want to see that closure?” (62) This serves as an important reminder of the connection between the objects on display and the people behind the story those objects were arranged to tell, between the institution that stewards those objects and the communities that those objects come from. As curators and caretakers of objects, telling stories with our collections is a huge part of what we do. Finding and honoring the human element of those stories should never be far from the front of our minds.—Lena Newman, Columbia University

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