Collective Memory, Assemblage and 'Catastrophic Events'
School of Geography, Politics and Sociology Newcastle University Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom
This paper makes use of recent developments in assemblage theory and memory studies to revisit Innes's ideas on the relationship between "signal crimes" and collective memory. The "signal crimes" perspective has become influential to understanding the ways in which particular events, through processes of "mass-mediation", are constructed or manufactured as indexical of the state of society. One of Innes's concerns is to explore how "signal crimes" are made meaningful not only to our contemporary cultural experiences of risk and disorder, but also to the production of our collective memories of certain events and how these will come to be publicly remembered. In this paper, I want to rethink the temporal orientation implicit to Innes's work, specifically the notion that "signal events" impact on future behaviours, beliefs and memories in relation to how we manage and engage with insecurities and anxieties. Using a range of cultural media, and drawing on the insights of Deleuzian-inspired assemblage theory, as well as recent discussions of the material-semiotic aspects of memory, the paper examines a number of "signal events" - re-read here as "catastrophic events" in a Baudrillardian sense - as creative, socio-cultural performances which enact, publicize and bring together the rags and tatters of different pasts, presents and futures in imaginative and innovative ways. Such "events" may include, but not be restricted to the discovery of the Fritzl cellar (Austria, 2008); the capture of Marc Dutroux (Belgium, 1996); the conviction of Dr Harold Shipman (UK, 2000); and the trial of Armin Meiwes (Germany, 2003).