• Ian Cantoni

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis examines conceptions of history, memory, and identity in contemporary France
    through a site-specific study of the Mémorial du Camp de Rivesaltes. With a history of some
    seventy years of internment, the Camp de Rivesaltes spanned France’s great Twentieth
    Century conflicts: the Spanish Civil War, the Second World War, the Algerian War;
    witnessing decades of migration, internment, and displacement. Through studying the
    memorialisation of Rivesaltes’ diverse pasts, fresh perspectives are offered on the memory of
    the Vichy government, decolonisation, and France’s fraught navigation of conflicts not-quitepast.

    The thesis considers the process of memorialisation both theoretically (applying theories
    adopted from the field of memory studies) and practically (through research at the site
    drawing on the principles of ethnography) to construct a study that shifts between the general
    and the particular, the local and the global. The research contributes to a growing field that
    applies theories of transnational memory to heritage sites, but, critically, tests these theories
    in relation to the experience of those people who now populate the site. Through an
    ethnographic examination of behaviour within the Mémorial and an analysis of responses to
    the site from a wide range of constituents, the thesis illustrates the difficulty of imposing a
    top-down, hegemonic understanding of French memory in the contemporary period. Rather,
    it argues that the site be considered through the lens of multidirectional memory, considering
    the potentially productive ways that memories of diverse conflicts and multiple sites of
    violence can be brought together in one place.

    Where the literature is well developed on the memory of France’s Second World War and
    Algerian War experiences, this thesis examines a site that has, as yet, been under-represented
    in studies of these periods. As such, this thesis provides a contribution to the knowledge that
    is at once particular to the Camp de Rivesaltes, and general, concerning the memorialisation
    of conflict in contemporary France. Through the use of varied archival sources, it explores
    the voices of those interned onsite, bringing them into dialogue with museum practitioners,
    architects, and visitors, in order to challenge any single reading of the camp landscape or of a
    singular ‘French’ memory. Through an analysis of the processes that underpinned the
    eventual creation of the Mémorial, various ‘stages of memory’ are revealed at specific
    periods in time. Such an examination suggests the resurgence of particular memories
    at particular times, aligned with local, national, and international events. It shows that these
    memories, whilst intensely local, are equally tangled and intertwined with memories of other
    times and places, and points to the difficulty of saying that these pasts have passed.
    Date of AwardMar 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorEugene Michail (Supervisor)

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