The Cosmopolitization of Remembrance —The Kwangju Uprising and the UNESCO “Memory of the World” Register
Hannes B. Mosler – 2014
The Kwangju Uprising of May 1980 represents an important turning point in South Korea’s contemporary history, as it played a decisive role in the subsequent democratization of the country. Despite the numerous studies done on the uprising, however, there has nonetheless rarely been any research conducted either on how it has been commemorated or on the development of remembrance discourses around it. This article thus focuses in particular on how to understand and explain the now apparent increasing urge to connect this uprising to incidents elsewhere in time and space, such as the Holocaust, and to protest movements in other countries, such as Argentina, Chile, and South Africa. Based on a single pilot case study of the process of inscribing the Kwangju Uprising into the UNESCO “Memory of the World,” the article develops a preliminary analytic framework wherein the phenomenon is explained as the “cosmopolitization of remembrance.” Actors with a stake in the remembrance of the uprising pursue a strategy of leveraging legitimacy by invoking globally accepted norms, doing so in order to promote their own take on the still highly contended interpretation of the Kwangju Uprising.