Participatory Memory: Fandom Experiences Across Time and Space

Remembering the People's Princess

This case study focuses on Princess Diana, who, even in death, continues to be an enduring figure to her fans. Highlighting fan activity near the Pont de l'Alma, above the tunnel where the fatal accident occurred in Paris, this case study makes the claim that fan pilgrimages are a part of establishing agency as keepers of her memory. In doing so, fans explore grief, time, and change, which are represented by the traces they leave behind in this physical space. In the wake of her death, Victor Seidler (2013) referred to this moment of fan activity as if “there was a sense that the streets belonged to the people and that the sights around the palaces had become people’s spaces” (p. 211). We would argue that similar activity is occurring at this Parisian memorial decades after Diana’s death.

However, the fans are blocked by Paris officials, who do not want fans leaving behind objects or writing on these spaces, which has lead to issues of representation. The city has moved to clean the space several times (Fenton, 2002), painting over it and erasing public attempts to memorialize Diana in this space. The ways in which fans continue interacting at this participatory memory site speaks to their need to memorialize the People’s Princess in public. This form of agency and participation is sought by others in similar spaces.

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