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The Afterlife of the Ruins of the World Trade Center

Wednesday, November 6, 2019, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

This research project focuses on the ruins of the World Trade Center following their removal from Ground Zero. Building on previous scholarship on the ruins’ radically heterogeneous materiality in which the remains of victims are inextricably mixed with debris and the remains of terrorists, this project explores the ruins’ afterlife in three areas: 1) the post-Ground Zero biography of WTC steel, 2) the exhibition of objects in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, and 3) textual and visual representations of the afterlife of the World Trade Center ruins. Rather than anchoring the discussion of the ruins onto the cataclysmic event of 9/11, this project centers on the musealization of relics, the fetishization of WTC steel as sacred material, and the selling of the wreckage as scrap metal. These uses of the ruins are justified by various political, economic, social, and cultural norms and practices that this project explores.

László Munteán is an assistant professor with a double of appointment in Cultural Studies and American Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. His publications have focused on the memorialization of 9/11 in literature and the visual arts, photography, urban culture and architecture, and cultural heritage. In a broader sense, his scholarly work revolves around the juncture of literature, visual culture, and cultural memory in American and Eastern European contexts. He is co-editor of Materializing Memory in Art and Popular Culture (Routledge 2017).