Monuments as a National Practice: The Dilemmas of Liberal Nationalism
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At first glance, the very idea of liberal nationalism appears to be an oxymoron. It is dedicated to universal liberal values but it maintains that a nation, a particularistic entity par excellence, is a justifiable, legitimate, and even beneficial entity. Liberal nationalism, in other words, tries to reconcile two seemingly irreconcilable values: national and liberal ones. However, if one thinks of liberal nationalism as a set of practices, it becomes clear that liberal nationalism is both possible and actual: it exists, and it is articulated in diverse spheres that touch our everyday lives as well as the foundations of liberal polities. In this study, I consider nationalism (and liberal nationalism in particular) to be a set of practices that continuously create and define the image of the nation, its boundaries, and the meaning of national identity. This dissertation focuses on one of these national practices: national monuments. I argue that as an example of a national practice in the built environment, they are appropriate grounds for exploring the intersection between space and nationalism and, more specifically, between space and liberal nationalism. At the heart of my discussion is the assumption that as a national practice, monuments must operate not only in a traditional (e.g., ethnic) national context, but also in a liberal national one. Therefore, I argue that within a liberal national context, monuments would construct an image of a liberal nation--a nation that melds together national and liberal values. To do so, I first examine how monuments construct an image of a nation; specifically, I focus on the politics of memory and death. This, in turn, leads to my discussion of liberal monuments. I explore the ways in which national monuments can be liberal, as well. Overall, the dissertation seeks to show that liberal monuments capture the dilemmas of liberal nationalism, and that they articulate these dilemmas in space.