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Objects at the wall: Continuing bonds and the Vietnam War Memorial

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posted on 2022-10-14, 14:13 authored by Paul Fitzpatrick


This thesis explores the phenomenon of objects being left at the Vietnam War Memorial, Washington D.C. Since its inception in 1982, one hundred and fifty thousand objects have been left by veterans, wives and families, as well as people not necessarily related to those named on the Wall. These objects are argued to be representative of a complex expression of loss and bereavement, both by individuals and by American society as a whole.

This exploration utilises various understandings of grief and bereavement, theoretical approaches to understanding objects as gifts, and expressions of deeply set emotion through written and physical forms. It suggests that the use of these objects represents a continuous process of redefining individual relationships and that this is especially acute in relation to the Vietnam War.

The work concludes by proposing one possible interpretation of the gifting of the objects; that of continuing bonds and, in turn, will aim to contribute to a broader understanding of grief that encompasses psychological, social, cultural and political landscapes.



  • School of Sport and Health Sciences

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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  • PhD

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