The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery (Hardback)
  • The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery (Hardback)
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The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery (Hardback)

(author)
£24.95
Hardback 416 Pages
Published: 15/08/2016

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Arlington National Cemetery is America’s most sacred shrine, a destination for four million visitors who each year tour its grounds and honor those buried there. For many, Arlington’s symbolic importance places it beyond politics. Yet as Micki McElya shows, no site in the United States plays a more political role in shaping national identity.

Arlington commemorates sacrifices made in the nation’s wars and armed conflicts. Yet it has always been a place of struggle over the boundaries of citizenship and the meaning of honor and love of country. A plantation built by slave labor overlooking Washington, D.C., Arlington was occupied by Union forces early in the Civil War. A portion was designated a federal cemetery in 1864. A camp for the formerly enslaved, Freedman’s Village, had already been established there in 1863, and remained for three decades.

The cemetery was seen primarily as a memorial to the white Civil War dead until its most famous monument was erected in 1921: the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, symbolizing universal military sacrifice through the interment of a single World War I Unknown. As a century of wars abroad secured Arlington’s centrality in the American imagination and more Unknowns joined the first at the tomb, inclusion within its gates became a prerequisite for broader claims to national belonging. In revealing how Arlington encompasses the most inspiring and the most shameful aspects of American history, McElya enriches the story of this landscape, demonstrating that remembering the past and reckoning with it must go hand in hand.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674737242
Number of pages: 416
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

Perhaps it is cliché to observe that in the cities of the dead we find meaning for the living. But, as McElya has so gracefully shown, such a cliché is certainly fitting of Arlington. - American Historical Review

An insightful and affecting investigation of how Americans see themselves, and how they memorialize their soldiers, that will be of interest to historians and, particularly, veterans. - Edwin Burgess, Library Journal (starred review)

McElya has crafted a wonderful history of Arlington National Cemetery, detailing the political and emotional background to this high profile burial ground. The evolution over the years of policies that govern who gets buried at Arlington, regardless of race or gender, is a complicated tale that deserves telling. The construction in 1921 of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier serves as a powerful symbol of the universality of military service in support of democratic ideals. McElya's finely wrought prose brings this story to light. - E. A. Goedeken, Choice

Highlighting issues of race, gender, sexuality, and nationhood, McElya not only corrects the dominant story of military valor but recuperates the lost landscape and lives of Arlington. - Kirk Savage, University of Pittsburgh

The Politics of Mourning is an elegantly written and fascinating study of the history of Arlington National Cemetery. McElya delves deeply into the complex story of Arlington’s evolution from antebellum plantation to hallowed ground and explores how this complicated past continues to shape its current status as ‘Our Nation’s Most Sacred Shrine.’ - Suzanne E. Smith, George Mason University

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