Performance, Representation, Reception, and the Lost Cause: Re-Framing the History of Confederate Monuments Through Embodied Assemblies
Date of Award
Master of Arts
Jennifer N Johung
Derek B Counts
confederate, emancipation, monument, procession, protest, rally
Discussion of Confederate monuments has been invigorated in academic, social, and political debates during the twenty-first century. As these monuments became entangled with police brutality following the George Floyd protests, scholars have tried to understand how this history connects with the systemic injustices faced by black Americans. Because financial inequities limited the ability of black Americans to erect monuments and photograph demonstrations during Reconstruction the archive is riddled with gaps in representation, which I close by following Diana Taylor’s suggestion that we turn to the “repertoire” of performance. My thesis turns away the monuments themselves by investigating the forms of assembly related to both their construction, and their removal in the twenty-first century. Following emancipation, processions gave black Americans a means of representing themselves socially and politically when capital to procure representation was unavailable and have continually been used to provide black citizens to amplify the voice they lack in social and political spaces. Former Confederates received support from wealthy political leaders and influencers, so organizers succeeded in erecting many monuments, each one accompanied by a spectacular unveiling ceremony, at which thousands of Americans would rally, bolstering popular support of the Lost Cause historical agenda. As actions like topplings have also become more prominent in the twenty-first century, my research explores how the organizers of rallies and processions have intended for their actions to be received by audiences, and how their strategies have evolved over time. By analyzing how these actions are both performative and theatrical, my thesis reveals how police brutality and Confederate memorialization have become increasingly entangled with American politics and media since the end of the Civil War. Understanding the organizers’ intentions regarding reception reveals how lingering traces of Confederate rituals continue to impact black American representation in politics and media. My intervention provides a theoretically driven framework which opens the history of Confederate monuments to areas of research foreclosed by gaps in the archive.
Rutherford, Joshua Adam, "Performance, Representation, Reception, and the Lost Cause: Re-Framing the History of Confederate Monuments Through Embodied Assemblies" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 3069.