Rust and dust: Materiality and the feel of memory at Camp des Milles

Shanti Sumartojo, Matthew Graves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, the authors explore the potential of state-sponsored memory sites to engender multi-chronological and sensorial accounts of the past, and create new meanings for visitors in doing so. They do this by recounting first-hand experiences of the Camp des Milles, a Second World War internment and deportation camp in the south of France, near Aix-en-Provence. Inaugurated in 2012, in addition to being an official lieu de mémoire, Camp des Milles also has an explicit pedagogical function in seeking to raise awareness of racism and anti-Semitism, and how to combat it. The article hinges on accounts of a visit to the site and accompanying photographs, which together provide an empirical starting point for a series of linked concepts that frame their arguments. Beginning with Manning’s notion of the ‘minor gesture’ (The Minor Gesture, 2016), the authors build on recent work on more-than-representational approaches to memory and place, and draw in explorations of materiality and industrial ruins. Overall, they call for a more subtle and atmospheric understanding of state-sponsored memory sites, an understanding that attends to the emergent experiences people have in them, which allow us to understand their affective impact more clearly, and thus their potential to promulgate and intensify their messages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)328-343
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Material Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • lieux de mémoire
  • materiality
  • memory
  • minor gesture
  • sensory ethnography

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