Remembering the forgotten: Muslims in the British and French First World War centenary

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


This book draws from national commemorations of the First World War centenary in Britain and France, alongside eleven local field sites that foregrounded Muslims, to make sense of how national memory changes when it seeks to include a previously excluded group. I identify three distinct narratives, which correspond to three ways of situating Muslims in relation to the nation: mourning, re-memory, and melancholia. Mourning, the most conventional narrative, venerates dead soldiers, and instils a militaristic collective identity among those who remember them. This narrative predominates at cemeteries and in official, state-led commemorations. Re-memory, the most popular narrative among my field sites, writes the present onto the past. It takes the form of new memorials and museum exhibitions that foreground Muslims, celebrating contemporary multiculturalism and reimagining empire as a ‘community of brothers’ bound by a common cause. Melancholia, the third narrative, is distinct in that it frequently does not take material form in sites of memory. Rather, it may consist of a generalised sense of unease surrounding collective memory; a violent clash between narratives of the past that reveals the contingency of each; or a ruined site that proclaims multiple narratives within a single space. In addition to these unintentional eruptions of melancholia, I identify three field sites that deliberately invoke melancholia among spectators. These two documentaries and one new museum exhibition disrupt collective memory and refrain from producing any cohesive narrative to repair that which it fractures. In the process, they prod the nation to grapple with its past and present without prescribing any tidy solution. Further, they demonstrate that any attempt to construct a cohesive national narrative is an act of erasure.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2020

Publication series

NameMemory Studies: Global Constellations


Dive into the research topics of 'Remembering the forgotten: Muslims in the British and French First World War centenary'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this