Following the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minnesota, outraged citizens around the world took to the streets to demand recognition that Black Lives Matter. BLM protests that took a number of forms, including the toppling or defacement of monuments commemorating figures and events associated with slavery, the Atlantic slave trade and the colonial oppression of people of colour more broadly. Through this act, the BLM Movement challenged us to look beyond the “great man” narratives that have shaped the way we understand these historical figures to identify their contribution to inequitable systems and institutions. In doing so, the Black Lives Matter Movement, like the MeToo Movement, has also held current figures accountable when their words and deeds serve to maintain inequality in society.
Those opposed to the toppling of statues, particularly in the right-wing media, have decried the erasure of symbols of history and questioned why figures should be called out now for views and behaviour that were ‘acceptable in their era’. Pundits have also lambasted the growth of a so-called ‘cancel culture’ that silences those who fail to toe the line of political correctness.
These events raise the question of why statues and monuments matter. What is at stake in determining who should be commemorated in this manner? What do they say about a particular society’s values, including whose lives matter? Should being racist/sexist/homophobic automatically disqualify someone from being commemorated with a monument or similar public honour, despite their notable achievements? If so, what is the threshold for determining whether a person’s behaviour rises to the level of disqualification? How has the valourisation of problematic contributed to the erasure or neglect of the legacies of other figures throughout history? Would the issue of statues matter so much if racial and gender inequality were not so deeply rooted in our current socio-economic and political systems?
This project provides a platform for participants to explore these issues through inclusive, interdisciplinary dialogues.
An Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference
Saturday 28th August 2021 – Sunday 29th August 2021
Online: ShockLogic Platform
Submissions are now open.