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Between Remembrance and RepairCommemorating Racial Violence in Philadelphia, Mississippi$
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Claire Whitlinger

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469656335

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469656335.001.0001

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Commemorating Racial Violence as Intergroup Contact

Commemorating Racial Violence as Intergroup Contact

(p.152) 7 Commemorating Racial Violence as Intergroup Contact
Between Remembrance and Repair

Claire Whitlinger

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter explains how the fortieth anniversary commemoration was able to generate a collective identity and commitment to memory activism across a diverse group of citizens. Drawing insights from the social psychology of intergroup contact and work of Gordon Allport, this chapter suggests that commemorating racial violence is most effective when certain conditions are met: the commemoration organizers collaborate on a common goal; the status of racial groups is equal within the commemorative planning process; the project has the support of relevant political and cultural authorities; and the commemoration planning process provides opportunities for informal interactions, often through storytelling. This last condition enables participants to challenge pre-existing stereotypes and to develop new understandings of their own racialized experiences. More broadly, this chapter suggests that interracial efforts to commemorate racial violence should be conceptualized as instances of inter-group contact. This highlights the often-overlooked interactional dynamics of the commemorative planning process and extends arguments about the relationship between storytelling and social change.

Keywords:   Gordon Allport, collective identity, commemoration, commitment, intergroup contact, memory activism, race, social psychology, storytelling

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