The Politics of Consolation: Memory and the Meaning of September 11

Paperback | September 8, 2015

byChristina Simko

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What meaning can be found in calamity and suffering? This question is in some sense perennial, reverberating through the canons of theology, philosophy, and literature. Today, The Politics of Consolation reveals, it is also a significant part of American political leadership. Faced withuncertainty, shock, or despair, Americans frequently look to political leaders for symbolic and existential guidance, for narratives that bring meaning to the confrontation with suffering, loss, and finitude. Politicians, in turn, increasingly recognize consolation as a cultural expectation, andthey often work hard to fulfill it. The events of September 11, 2001 raised these questions of meaning powerfully. How were Americans to make sense of the violence that unfolded on that sunny Tuesday morning? This book examines how political leaders drew upon a long tradition of consolation discourse in their effort to interpretSeptember 11, arguing that the day's events were mediated through memories of past suffering in decisive ways. It then traces how the struggle to define the meaning of September 11 has continued in foreign policy discourse, commemorative ceremonies, and the contentious redevelopment of the WorldTrade Center site in lower Manhattan.

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What meaning can be found in calamity and suffering? This question is in some sense perennial, reverberating through the canons of theology, philosophy, and literature. Today, The Politics of Consolation reveals, it is also a significant part of American political leadership. Faced withuncertainty, shock, or despair, Americans frequent...

Christina Simko is Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:September 8, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199381798

ISBN - 13:9780199381791

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Table of Contents

PrefaceIntroductionPart I: Political Consolation in American History1. Revisiting the Civil Scriptures2. The War of Good and Evil3. American TragediesPart II: Politics and Consolation after September 114. September Mourning5. From Consolation to Legitimation6. Consolation and Commemoration7. Symbolic Politics on Sacred GroundConclusion: Crisis Moments and Political MeaningsNotesBilbliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"In modern American history, politicians have frequently stepped into the public eye to 'console the nation' in the aftermath of violent events. In doing so, they seek to render evil comprehensible while also setting out a course of action that follows 'naturally' from the events theyinterpret. Christina Simko's study discovers the inner logic of this process, and thus articulates a new understanding of how public sense-making proceeds in a democracy driven by both myth and power. This book is a wonderful debut from a powerful new voice in interpretive sociology." --Isaac Ariail Reed, author of Interpretation and Social Knowledge