Blossoming Ambiguity; Public Commemoration as Meaning-full Speech Act

 

The extent to which we should honor and commemorate individuals who have been part of violent conflict is a topic of increasing, and increasingly contentious, public discourse.  In this paper I examine the potential ambiguities present in many symbols and acts of remembrance, in order to ask whether it is possible to resolve questions of what are, and are not, appropriate public acts of commemoration. I argue that many public acts of commemoration are attempted speech acts, that fail to be meaningful because they are meaning-full. I suggest that this meaningfull-ness, though problematic, is valuable because disambiguation allows us to engage in valuable dialogues about our individual and group commitments to particular moral, epistemological, political, and historical ideas.

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