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The body, the blank, and the trace: the invention of a presence in monuments and memorials to the dead

Grant number: 17/18764-8
Support type:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Post-doctor
Effective date (Start): December 01, 2017
Effective date (End): November 30, 2018
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Anthropology
Principal researcher:Sylvia Caiuby Novaes
Grantee:Carolina Junqueira dos Santos
Supervisor abroad: Carlo Severi
Home Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), France  
Associated to the scholarship:15/25039-2 - The body, the blank, and the trace: the invention of a presence in monuments and Memorials to the dead, BP.PD


This research project aims at developing the essential questions of my postdoctoral research "The body, the blank, and the trace: the invention of a presence in monuments and memorials to the dead", which has been developed at the Department of Anthropology of the University of São Paulo since April 2016. The main project has as its fundamental point the study of the memorial practice starting from the idea of the body and how, after death, a new body - a symbolic, visible, tangible one - is evoked in order to provide the survivor with a continued relationship to the disappeared person.As a catastrophe of/in the body, death produces a gesture of reconfiguration of this body and of the notion of a person. Through the elaboration of a substitute body, a new form of relationship is established between the living and that which has disappeared, the lost body of the deceased. To become present, images require visibility, materiality - a body. The present research thus deals with a reflection on what death conceals and transforms into traces, vestiges of a passage of the body, taking as a central perspective the construction and usage of monuments and memorials in collectively shared spaces. Man has always dealt with the disappearance of a body by producing rituals, images and monuments, visible and tangible traces constituted by a new materiality that wishes to evoke the effect of some presence of the dead.Monuments and memorials to the dead are constructed / symbolized elements that make up public and private spaces. We often see official discourses around monuments (especially those dedicated to the memory of great human disasters, such as wars and genocides) associated with a "never again", as if the memorials became a kind of symbolic limit against the repetition of certain acts. The monuments are also the marking of a place for the dead, for an event; its structural strength lies in its keeping visible and tangible in space what has disappeared.The crucial point of the present postdoctoral research is an in-depth examination of these memory spaces from the perspective of an anthropological approach to image, memory, and ritual, in a movement towards the need for acts of marking, situating, symbolizing and remembering, which have been carried out by humans over millennia. The practice of creating a new and separate place for the remains of a being, his body, bones, ashes, produces a new meaning for this body and for the relationship that is established with it. What is marked is, therefore, the absent, what is missing.The present research envisages a more precise elaboration of the notions of body, image, memory, mourning, death and ritual, in close collaboration with my supervisor at the host institution abroad, Prof. Carlo Severi, specialist in the fields of image, memory and ritual. In addition, the stay abroad will enable the achievement of an important stage of my initial project at USP, namely the field research around monuments and memorials to the dead, especially those related to the two World Wars and the Shoah, which will also be much facilitated by more direct access to the large archives and libraries of important French institutions. The research abroad also aims at developing the bibliographical and analytical aspects of the project, based on academic exchanges, seminars and participation in the research group "Anthropologie de la mémoire", coordinated by Prof. Carlo Severi at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), the host institution of the proposed research. (AU)

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