Covering the Cough? Memory, Remembrance, and Influenza Amnesia

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Author/s (editor/s):

Jeremy Youde

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
John Wiley & Sons Australia

Jeremy Youde, ‘Covering the Cough? Memory, Remembrance, and Influenza Amnesia’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, 63(3) 2017: 357-68.

The 1918–1919 influenza pandemic killed an estimated 20–100 million people, making it more lethal than the First World War and causing life expectancy rates to decline by approximately ten years. Nearly one hundred years later, though, there will be few (if any) commemorations of the pandemic and its effects on societies around the world, and the bodies affected are largely rendered invisible. Rather than trying to figure out how or why we remember, the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic requires us to consider why we don’t remember. In this article, I suggest some possible reasons for this lack of remembrance and what it may say about the politics of memory. In particular, I consider the effects of transnationalism, the role of illness as a presence or absence within international politics, the absenting of bodies and how it contributes to commemorative silences, and the ambiguity around what gets performed when we remember or commemorate.

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