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Monumental space and the uncanny

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This paper takes up the attempt to theorize the relation between the subjectivity of the political actor and the ideological aura of the monumental site. It does this with reference to the spatial history of Strijdom Square in Pretoria, South Africa, a cultural precinct and monumental space which was the site of a series of brutal racist killings committed by the Square’s unrelated namesake, militant right-winger Barend Strydom. This troubling intersection of subjectivity, space and ideology represents something of an explanatory limit for spatio-discursive approaches, certainly in as much as they are ill-equipped to conceptualize the powerfully affective, bodily and fantasmatic qualities of monumental spaces. In contrast to such approaches I offer a psychoanalytically informed account which grapples with the individualized and imaginative identities of space, with space as itself a form of subjectivity. I do this so as understand the ideological aura of monuments as importantly linked to the ‘intersubjectivity’ of subject and personified space. I then turn to Freud’s notion of the uncanny as a theory able to explain a series of disturbing affects of monuments, such as those of ‘embodied absence’ and ‘disembodied presence’. These and similar affects of ‘ontological dissonance’ (such as unexplained instances of doubling or repetition) may function in an ideological manner, both so as to impose a ‘supernaturalism of power’, and to effect an uncanny form of interpellation.

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