• Speakers for the Dead: digital memory and the construction of identity

      Vincent, Alana M.; University of Chester (Berghahn Books, 2018-06-19)
      In the wake of the killing of twelve people at the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, thousands of individuals—many of whom had never before seen a copy of the paper—changed their Facebook statuses, profile pictures, or Twitter updates to “Je suis Charlie.” A month previously, a similar outpouring of digital sentiment took place in response to a New York grand jury’s decision not to indict police officers who had been filmed choking Eric Garner to death: #icantbreathe. These two events are, of course, not unique—one might also note Le Monde’s editorial headline on 12 September 2001, “Nous sommes tous Americains”, or even John F. Kennedy’s 1963 declaration “Ich bin ein Berliner”—but they are exemplary of an increasing tendency towards the appropriation of another’s identity as a ritual of public mourning. This paper considers these appropriative rituals in a wider historical context of memorialisation as constitutive of collective identity, arguing that, while the internet did not originate this ritual of remembrance via appropriation, its increasing dominance is a consequence of the immediacy and international nature of digital culture. It then presents an analysis of the politics of the “us” which results from these commemorative rituals, making some suggestions about whether, and how, the problematic notion of collective identity is transforming in the digital age.