Contesting statues of empire and slavery 

The changing shape of cultural activism.

Colston statue
Bristol Culture (M Shed)

Researchers: Professor Gary Younge, Dr Meghan Tinsley, Dr Chloe Peacock, Ruth Ramsden-Karelse, Dr Sadia Habib.

The global resurgence of Black Lives Matter in 2020 has ignited a global debate on the role of statues in memorialising histories of slavery and colonialism, which has mobilised activists and community historians alongside academics, policymakers, pundits, and cultural institutions. Viewing statues as sites for legitimising and contesting institutions, public space, and history, this work package asks: What are the processes by which statues are removed? Are certain processes more successful than others? How does the process of removing a statue change the dominant discourse on both the statue and the historical figure it represents? 

The project consists of two prongs, combining research and pedagogy. First, researchers will examine political discourse and policy, and conduct interviews with activists, in order to compare the contestation of statues across fifteen sites in the UK, the US, South Africa, Martinique, and Belgium. The members of the research team are Prof Gary Younge, Dr Meghan Tinsley, Dr Chloe Peacock, and Ruth Ramsden-Karelse. Second, in spring 2021, the project will hold a series of workshops entitled 'Whose Statues, Whose Stories?' with twenty-five young people from across the UK. Participants will investigate local statues and propose their own interventions. These workshops will be led by Dr Sadia Habib. 
 
The work package will culminate in at least two journal articles, one book chapter, and several public outputs including a short video, long-form journalism, podcasts, and a website.