The emergence of a local memorial landscape in the aftermath of violent tragedy: a study of Baltimore's Dawson murders, 2002-2005
Steele, Christopher Perry
Geores, Martha E.
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Memorial landscapes are inextricably linked to the processes of national, regional, local, and individual identity formation; and are tightly bound to notions of place and space. A rich body of literature exists in the social sciences on the structure and function of national scale memorial landscapes. A nascent body of literature on informal memorial works and landscapes is emerging in the social sciences. The current study bridges these bodies of literature by investigating the collection of memorial interventions as elements of a single memorial landscape and by focusing on local, human-scale remembrance over a three years period. A triangulated, multi-method, qualitative research design has been applied to the investigation of the material, discursive, and representational components of the memorial landscape which has emerged in Baltimore's Oliver neighborhood in response to the murder of all seven members of the Dawson family on October 16, 2002. The memorial landscape is viewed here as the manifestation of the community's negotiation between the production of space and the making of place. The data reveal that the initial years in the formation of a local-scale memorial landscape are bound up with complex sociopolitical processes. The outcomes of this research are that the formation of the local-scale memorial landscape is a complex and dynamic expression of sociopolitical identity and power; that memory work is transformative with regard to space and place; that there is merit in a more inclusive definition of the memorial landscape; that multiple geographic scales produce the memorial landscape; and that participation in local-scale memory work diminishes over time. Future research should focus upon the variability of memory work across race, class, gender, faith and geography at the local scale. Such an investigation has the potential to yield greater degrees of understanding of complexity and ambiguity of local-scale identity formation..