Image: ‘Deep Rooted’, by Tjeerd Royaards
There has been a lot of reflection about monuments and history in relation to the recent protests and depedestalisations (love that word from Simon Schama’s piece). This post pulls some of those essays, podcasts, and twitter threads together for easy reference. I compiled it in June 2020, in the immediate response to toppling statues and debated statues, I’ll try to add some later reflections in the months since. Which ones are not yet on this list? (The list is, for instance, very British-focused at the moment).
The wonderful people behind the Paroles d’Histoire Podcast have compiled a way more exhaustive list of historians’ contributions in 2020. They recorded an insightful series of podcast conversations with historians of all stripes.
Memorialisation, heroisation, and amnesia:
- Lecture by Olivette Otele on how the memorialisation of slavery and slave trade shapes lives.
- Intelligence Squared discussion about Statues, Heritage, and History (from 2018)
- Intelligence Squared discussion about statues, slavery, and the struggle for equality
- Discussion of judging historical figures by the morals of today
- Afua Hirsch about revising heroes
- Digital Holocaust Memory on different memorials to victims and perpetrators, and how memorialisation narrows and makes static, whereas memory is multivocal
Silencing by Memorialising:
- Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Good Day Columbus
- All of Trouillot’s Silencing the Past is extraordinary thought-provoking. There’s a lecture about the book here. And this obituary is a helpful overview of his work and ideas. Also an essay on layers of silence in Haiti.
- Kate Williams about how the statues are whitewashing history.
- Peter Hill about the time period in which the statues of colonialism were put up.
- Simon John also about 19th century statuomania.
- Diana Paton on about how the comfortable memorialisation of white abolitionists obscures the uprisings by the enslaved.
- Rahul Rao on the abuse of Mandela and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
- How Southern socialites rewrote Civil Write History and perpetuated it through memorialisation and making history personal
- Opponents against abolition by David Olusoga
- Gemma Tidman about the actual context of statues
- ‘one element of a cultural ecology in which black lives are infinitely diminished’ — Chris Hill on why statues matter, intertwining imperial memory and war memory.
Iconoclasm is meaningful
- David Olusoga about the scars on the Colston statue: “It is not now a memorial to a slave trader but a potent relic from the age when our society believed it was acceptable to memorialise a slave trader.“
- Philip Schwyzer on counter-memorialization and the many complex meanings of iconoclasm
- That same Philip Schwyzer on the importance of challenging the ahistorical understanding of statues and instead understanding these as bodies with histories and material biographies
- a historical overview on toppling statues across the millenia
- The toppling of statues teaches us history.
Relation Statues and Systemic Racism:
- History Acts conversation on Black History Matters
- David Olusoga about how the statues are a symptom, not the whole problem.
- Olivette Otele, making a distinction between history and legacy, linking the past to present discrimination (at 2:33).
- Simukai Chigudu about how Rhodes Must Fall is about much more than tearing down a statue.
- Reflection on Rhodes Must Fall since 2015 and how centring the statue is a way of leveraging an entire conversation, and the media’s misrepresentation and caricaturing.
- Michael Rothberg’s ‘The Implicated Subject‘: lecture on his book, and a conversation about the legacy of historical violence and present-day oppression.
- Catherine Hall on the continued legacy of slavery.
- Natalya Din-Kariuki on After Rhodes Falls.
How statues aren’t history teachers:
- Simon Schama on depedestalisation.
- Charlotte Lydia Riley about Britain’s relation to its imperial past.
- Charlotte Lydia Riley about statues linked to a pride in/misunderstanding of abolitionism.
- How the discussions about statues are discussions about different views of the past.
- Charlotte Lydia Riley on British sense of exceptionalism
- Displaying the complexity of Black British History in a museum
- A twitter thread by Bret Devereux outlining the long durée of statues
- Kristof Smeyers about how history isn’t in the past tense (Dutch)
Specific places and their statues:
- David Olusoga explains the place of Colston in Bristol.
- Madge Dresser about statues and slavery in London.
- Olivette Otele sharing inspiration from how France has dealt with its past of slavery
- Olivette Otele about how the toppling of Colston is a local dispute tied up in national and global inequalities
- Alex von Tunzelmann on Rhodes must fall.
- Esme Cleall asks if focusing on Rhodes distracts from the much wider problem
- How Charlottesville statues shaped the town’s black communities.
- Jennifer Sessions’s twitter thread about the Louis XIV statue that lost a hand, not much reflection, but so glorious about how complex statues’ histories are
- Neil MacGregory comparing German and British memorialisation
- Madge Dresser on Colston.
Other Pieces of Relevance:
- Special issue edited by Marisa Fuentes and Brian Connelly: From Archives of Slavery to Liberated Futures?
- History Workshop forum on denial. Blog introduction to the essays here; this is the issue itself.
- Forum on Presentism in Past & Present (2017)
- Forum on doing history in urgent times
- why history matters by L.D. Burnett
- Joyce Appleby’s ‘The Power of History‘ (1998)
Image: ‘Deep Rooted’, by Tjeerd Royaards