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Dead work: The construction and reconstruction of the Harlan Miners Memorial

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Abstract

In 1986, the Harlan County Jaycees club erected a monument to honor over 1300 local coal miners who had lost their lives on the job. In 1991, the Harlan County Fiscal Court demolished the original memorial and erected a new one on the same site. The following ethnographic account, based upon nine months of participant-observation research and interviews conducted with memorial sponsors, describes the events surrounding the construction and reconstruction of this memorial. The Harlan Miners Memorial, it is argued here, provides insight into the interplay between conflict and consensus which undergirds commemoration, generally. The author concludes that neither the Durkheimian perspective, which emphasizes social consensus and the collective conscience, nor the Marxian perspective, which highlights class conflict and ideological domination, adequately addresses the complex political dynamics and repercussions of this memorial.

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Scott, S.L. Dead work: The construction and reconstruction of the Harlan Miners Memorial. Qual Sociol 19, 365–393 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02393277

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