Document v. Monument

September 11, 2022 History Memory Maria Stepanova Jaques Rancière

In her novel In Memory of Memory, Maria Stepanova quotes the historian Jacques Rancière’s unique take on history:

Rancière’s most important point is this: in his writing about history, he contrasts document and monument. A document,’ for him, is any record of an event that aims to be exhaustive, to tell history, to make a memory official’. A monument is the opposite of document, in the primary sense of the term’: that which preserves memory through its very being,”

that which speaks directly, through the fact that it was not intended to speak - the layout of a territory that testifies to the past activity of human beings better than any chronicle of their endeavours; a household object, a piece of fabric, a piece of pottery, a stele, a pattern painted on a chest or a contract between two people we know nothing about.

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