Monuments, Memory and Liberation

Monuments, Memory and Liberation
4 November 2020, 2.00pm - 6.00pm

The wave of Black Lives Matter protests which spread around the world following the killing of George Floyd in May 2020 has served to spark a fresh debate about how, as societies, we remember and memorialise the past. In some cases, the protests have focused on statues commemorating figures associated with racism, the slave trade and colonial oppression. In the UK the campaign to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes from the façade of Oriel College, Oxford gained renewed momentum, and in Bristol, a statue of slave trader, Edward Colston, was toppled by protesters. To their critics, these campaigns represent an attempt not only to impose contemporary morality on the past, but actually to ‘erase history’. Others, however, view the survival of such monuments as evidence of the UK’s failure to come to terms with the poisonous legacies of imperialism. As the philosopher Susan Neiman puts it, ‘monuments are not about history; they are values made visible’.

This workshop seeks to put the debates currently going on in the UK in a broader perspective. What can we learn from the US, where the commemoration of figures associated with colonisation, slavery and the Confederate side in the civil war have long been the subject of controversy and protest? How did former colonies treat the monuments left behind by the former colonial powers? And how has Europe grappled with the turbulent past of its own continent over the previous century in terms of the creation of new monuments and the destruction of physical reminders of previous regimes? Finally, when approaching this subject, are there dangers in making misleading comparisons and moral equivalences between distinct historical moments.


2.00 pm (GMT)           Welcome and introduction from Philip Murphy (ICwS) 

2.10 pm (GMT)           Panel One: Genocide, Conflict and Political Upheaval in Europe

Professor Susan Neiman (Director of the Einstein Forum, Potsdam. Author of Learning from the Germans: Confronting Race and the Memory of Evil).

Professor Milada Polišenská (Chair of the School of International Relations and Diplomacy at the New Anglo-American College, Prague).

                                 Petr Bergmann (Ashoka Fellow, Czech Republic. Scholar and activist currently investigating monuments built by Emil Schwantner in the North-East borderline areas of Bohemia).

Keith Lowe (Author of Prisoners of History: What Monuments Tell Us About Our History and Ourselves).

Chair: Carollann Braum (New Anglo-American College, Prague)

3.45 pm (GMT)           Break 

4.00 pm (GMT)           Panel Two: Slavery, Colonialism and Race.

Dr Adom Getachew (University of Chicago. Author of Worldmaking after Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-Determination).

Alex von Tunzelmann (author of Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire).

Professor Ana Lucia Araujo (Howard University, Washington DC. Author of Slavery in the Age of Memory: Engaging the Past).

Chair: Philip Murphy 

5.45 pm (GMT)           Concluding remarks


Olga Jimenez
020 7862 8871