Survivor Trees and memorial groves: Vegetal commemoration of victims of terrorism in Europe and the United States

Charlotte Heath-Kelly
2018 Political Geography  
In commemorations of human lives lost in terrorism, European and American memorials increasingly appeal to the aesthetics of 'nature' to symbolise societal regrowth. This article interrogates the ironic and ontological registers involved in commemorating human life through vegetal symbols, paying particular attention to the World Trade Center site in Manhattan. Memorials traditionally conceive of human life as distinct from material and living ecologies, rarely commemorating the deaths of
more » ... mans. As such, the use of trees and vegetal landscaping to represent and memorialise the dead human involves a complex and ironic ontological relationship. Post disaster place-making through vegetal symbolism equates vegetal and human being, on one level, but it also ironically emphasises the fundamental gulf between them. Survivors and visitors are confronted with regenerating vegetal life which evokes idealised ecological conceptions of networked human and non-human lives. But we do not live or die in the same way as a plant, so vegetal symbolism simultaneously invokes human alienation from the natural world. The aesthetic registers of the survivor trees bring a complex, unresolved and ironic reflection on human mortality to memorial landscapes.
doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2018.03.003 fatcat:isht74cqlzfpfhkgzdt6zagac4