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In the summer of 2017, Charlottesville Virginia became the focal point of the United States monument debate. The open racism and violence that transpired sparked the nation to re-evaluate its relationship to Confederate monuments and public spaces. Moving forward, the United States can choose to keep contentious monuments as they are, remove them, recontextualize them, relocate them or create new ones. Each choice changes the monument landscape to represent national identity in different ways. However, some choices are more successful at responsible diverse representation then others. This is evident because South Africa has been attempting to diversify their monument landscape for the last 20 years.
As the United States tackles its monument problem, looking to South Africa’s experience with public space could be helpful. This paper compares the fledgling stages of the United States’ monument debate with South Africa’s. It is a critique of manufactured diversity and aims to highlight that national identity should be formed organically by the people rather than dictated by governments. Monuments help create national identity. Therefore, they should start debates rather than give answers about history, citizenship and national identity. Keeping all of this in mind the question remains: what should be done about monuments?
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Benoit, Page, "A Monumental Question: A Comparison Between the United States' and South Africa's Monument Debates" (2018). Senior Projects Spring 2018. 166.
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