Pro-Gaza Cambridge uni paint protest and public spaces’ role in memory-making

Rashmee Roshan Lall
3 min readJun 23, 2024
Image by Zero Take, Unsplash

Pro-Palestine protestors sprayed red paint on a historic building at Cambridge University on June 22, accusing it of funding, enabling and normalising Israeli military operations in Gaza, where more than 37,000 people have been killed since October. This action comes just two months after Palestinians marked their Day of the Catastrophe or Nakba. This Week, Those Books offers crucial context on how public spaces are used — for good or ill — to create national symbols of shared identity. Sign up at and get the post and four-minute podcast the day it drops

The Big Story:

Sometimes national symbols of shared identity can be deeply contested, nationally or internationally. As Milan Kundera wrote: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”.

Turkey’s Democracy and National Unity Day, established in 2017 to commemorate those who died fighting against an attempted coup, is one of the more recent attempts to “shape” collective memory.


This Week, Those Books:

A penetrating study of why countries choose to remember only some things.

A haunting novel on how forgetting may be the best way forward.

Places of Pain and Shame: Dealing with ‘Difficult Heritage’

By: William Logan and Keir Reeves

Publisher: Routledge

Year: 2008

My rating: Insightful

This is a fascinating collection of writings on the creation and nurturing of diverse national heritage symbols such as genocide sites, prisons and lunatic asylums. Australian Professors William Logan and Keir Reeves are experts on cultural heritage and they have edited a remarkable volume that brings together scholars and practitioners — architects, historians, geographers, political scientists and public policy specialists. So, we get the benefit of both theory and practice on fraught issues to do with national museums and memorials in the US, Northern Ireland, Poland, South Africa, China, Japan, Taiwan, Cambodia, Indonesia, East Timor and Australia.

Some rituals and venues for memorialisation “serve to maintain a group’s sense of connection with its roots”, they write, thereby fulfilling a key political function. But sometimes, “state authorities engage in retelling history, inventing traditions and celebrating heritage in ways that serve their own interests”. In the era of European colonialism, “memory distortion and the fabrication of myths” was a common propaganda ploy, but it also occurs “in postcolonial situations…”


The Buried Giant

By: Kazuo Ishiguro

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Year: 2015

My rating: Emotionally affecting

Part myth, part fairytale, Nobel Prizewinning writer Kazuo Ishiguro’s dreamy novel is set in the England of the Dark Ages. Two peoples — the Britons and the Saxons — have been at bloody war but now live side by side in peace because a mist has fallen across the whole land, taking all their memories, good and bad. The story revolves around …

The Backstory:

Nakba Day, especially poignant this year as Gaza continues to starve, bleed and die, is marked on the day after Israel declared independence in 1948. The United Nations officially commemorated it for the first time in 2023.

On May 10, a school board in Virginia reversed a name-change made after the 2020 George Floyd Black Lives Matter protests. Two schools in the state will now once again be named after men who played a seminal role in the southern US states’ attempt to secede from the American union to continue the practice of slavery.

Nakba Day, a bit like Italy’s Giorno del Ricordo…


Originally published at This Week, Those Books

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Rashmee Roshan Lall

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Writer. My novel 'Pomegranate Peace' is about my year in Afghanistan. I teach journalism at university in London