In Mapping Memory, Kaitlin M. Murphy investigates the use of memory as a means of contemporary sociopolitical intervention. Mapping Memory focuses specifically on visual case studies, including documentary film, photography, performance, new media, and physical places of memory, from sites ranging from the Southern Cone to Central America and the U.S.–Mexican borderlands. Murphy develops new frameworks for analyzing how visual culture performs as an embodied agent of memory and witnessing, arguing that visuality is inherently performative. By analyzing the performative elements, or strategies, of visual texts—such as embodiment, reenactment, haunting, and the performance of material objects and places Murphy elucidates how memory is both anchored in and extracted from specific bodies, objects, and places. Drawing together diverse theoretical strands, Murphy originates the theory of “memory mapping”, which tends to the ways in which memory is strategically deployed in order to challenge official narratives that often neglect or designate as transgressive certain memories or experiences. Ultimately, Murphy argues, memory mapping is a visual strategy to ask, and to challenge, why certain lives are rendered visible and thus grievable and others not.
1. Affect, Haunting, and Mapping Memory 27
2. The Materiality of Memory: Touching, Seeing, and Feeling the Past 56
3. Performing Archives, Performing Ruins 88
4. The Politics of Seeing: Affect, Forensics, and Visuality in the US-Mexico Borderlands 120
Mapping Memory lays bare the affective, visual, spatial, and performative imprints of memories as afterlives of modernity’s violence. Through careful analysis across the Americas, Murphy investigates how even the tiniest places unveil an archive of historical terror that continues to be visually palpable and viscerally felt in everyday experiences. Murphy’s attention to visible presences and the materiality of memory thoughtfully opens new horizons for mnemonic theory and action.
Macarena Gómez-Barris, Social Science & Cultural Studies, Pratt Institute