Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




David L. Clark




This study considers the political significance of the cultural work of public mourning. While "mourning work" has been largely dismissed or distanced from political discourse and overlooked as an object of sustained reflection and query, the sanctioned modes of remembering and honouring the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States have greatly stimulated a philosophical rethinking of this dismissal. Addressing in particular the ways in which the public memorial establishes and sustains a spectatorship of individuals who feel themselves part of or belonging to a community of fellow mourners grieving a common anguished past, this study explores how mourning work is, in fact, intricately and significantly bound up with what is considered the "political," in that mourning work provides the very conditions that are necessary for social relationships-and thus, such notions as "community," "nationhood," and the "public" sphere-to emerge. Chapter 1 ("Beyond Remembrance: (Re)Animating the Living Dead and the Dead Living") explores the ways in which various media that have "9/11" as their focus simultaneously produce and police a "public" sphere made to mourn the deaths that have been rendered "grievable" and worthy of remembrance. Chapter 2 ("Ground Zero's (Im)Possible Voids") considers how the preservation of the bases or "footprints" of the Twin Towers for New York City's "officially sanctioned" public memorial to "9/11" proves instrumental in maintaining the cohesion of the "public" sphere, and also enables us to unpack the torsions at work in the practice of collective remembrance.

McMaster University Library

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