Roadside Lessons of Historicity. The Roles and the Meanings of the Material Points of References to The Great War and in Shaping Historical Sensitivity and Awareness

Anna Zalewska


The author attempts to demonstrate whether, how and in what circumstances material references to the past and material carriers of memory can be perceived and treated not only as the necessary conditions in scholarly practices, but also as
the prompts useful in building lesser oppressive and more aware of its historicity social reality. On the specific examples of the material relics of the Gasscapes where the chemical weapon of mass destruction was used during the Total War I (1915) the author exposes the circumstances and consequences of the ways in which certain places, traces and records are becoming the necessary conditions for the
“epistemological mise-en-scene” of the past and the future conducted cum fundamento in reby the existing self—while the other, despite huge potential are omitted and forgotten. Two issues are treated as vital in this context: (1) the complexity of mechanisms responsible for the fact that material relics are not always treated as material points of reference to the past in situations when “non-history” becomes history, (2) the problems of determining what defines archaeology’s (in)ability to effectively demonstrate its social utility in revitalizing the memory of events that took place a hundred years ago, All presented in the article cases from the eastern Gasscape, though being materially entangled with the First World War, share today similar faith—despite their valuable mnemonic potency, they are not perceived as the “symbolic sites” and as such they are, so far, only potential roadside lessons of historicity. While at the western front battlefields the proposal of such roadside lessons is still improved further. Also with the participation of archaeology.

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