Commemoration of war dead tells us who we are, says Wright
By Elaine Justice | Spirited Thinking | Dec. 10, 2012
Grave of a WWI Jewish soldier from England at a cemetery in Passchendaele, Belgium.
Jacob Wright has laid out for himself a task that embraces one of the highest values of the Jewish tradition, and of many faith traditions: the task of remembering.
Wright studies remembering through the lens of war commemoration, a practice that he says is one the most important political means by which communities construct and negotiate their collective identities.
Wright most often looks through the lens of peripheral groups in societies. "From my new home in the South one of the examples I like to use is a society called the Hebrew Ladies Memorial Association, founded immediately after the Civil War" says Wright.
"Their job was to tend to the graves of Confederate war dead, their sons who had died for the Confederate side. They did this in order to insist that they truly belonged to South," not stuck between sides, as larger society would try to portray them.
Throughout American history, ethnic and other minority groups have sought to define themselves in relation to the larger society in the way they commemorate their group’s war dead, Wright says.