Remembering at the margins: trauma, memory practices and the recovery of marginalised voices at the Berlin-Hohenschonhausen memorial
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Byrnes, Deirdre. (2017). Remembering at the margins: trauma, memory practices and the recovery of marginalised voices at the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen memorial. Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 25(4), 455-469. doi: 10.1080/14782804.2017.1361818
The Berlin-Hohenschonhausen memorial is located on the site of the main remand prison for people detained by the Stasi, the GDR secret police. In this exploration of memory practices at the site, the concept of marginalisation will be used both in a geographical and in a metaphorical sense. I will first consider the significance of the prison's relatively peripheral location in the north-eastern district of Lichtenberg. Anchoring the analysis within theories of museology, in particular the museum as experiential site and as site of trauma, I will explore the manner in which the once-marginalised voices of former prisoners now find expression as they conduct guided tours, thus continuing to recall their experiences of imprisonment and isolation at the very site where the trauma occurred. Visitors to the memorial can also view a permanent exhibition documenting the history of political persecution at the prison; eyewitness testimony is inscribed very powerfully into this narrative also. I will explore how past trauma is narrated and performed both during those guided tours and throughout the permanent exhibition. This analysis contends that the Berlin-Hohenschonhausen memorial is an essential space of agency, allowing for the articulation of previously marginalised voices and for their inscription into the post-unification memorial landscape.
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