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Capitals as Places of Memory

Capitals as Places of Memory

(p.14) 2 Capitals as Places of Memory
American Capitals
Christian Montès
University of Chicago Press

This chapter underlines that capitals are singular in the American urban fabric, from physical and social point of views, because of the monumentality and the public spaces they offer. This sheds a light on their enduring symbolic power as places of memory. Following B. Debarbieux’s theoretical framework, capitals are seen as generic places, through the naming of capitals. It enhances their strong symbolic meaning, distinguishing them from the other cities in the state. Then condensation processes are studied, through the platting of capitals. It stages and translates the polity in the physical pattern of capital cities. Debarbieux’s figures are seen through the lens of the erection of monuments, the most impressive of which being the capitols. Once symbols of the reality of statehood, they have become symbols of permanence, linking the states with their history. Last, we stress the fact that “condensation” does not always encompass the whole place and the entire population of state capitals. This will be studied through the unique relationship between the public and the private spheres. Capitals certainly host and stage the most important public spaces and places in their states, but without always creating harmony and equality.

Keywords:   Places of memory, Condensation, Naming, Platting, Capitols, Public spaces

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