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Contested Histories online workshop
June 28, 2021 - June 29, 2021
Contested Histories: Creating and Critiquing Public Monuments and Memorials in a New Age of Iconoclasm is organised by Swansea University’s Conflict, Reconstruction and Memory research group. Exploring debates surrounding the cultural and political uses of monuments, and reflecting upon their role in the memorialisation and imagining of the past. For the purposes of the proceedings, we will take a broad view of ‘monuments’, considering artefacts such as war memorials, cenotaphs and public statuary as well as urban sites damaged through war, or locations hallowed through their connection to pivotal events in the past. The focus of the workshop draws inspiration from contemporary debates energised by movements such as the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ protests, Decolonizing the University, and activist campaigns to remove statues commemorating confederate participants in the US Civil War.
These developments have prompted academics to pose a number of linked questions about the role of public statuary. What socio-political motives underpin cultural responses to monuments? How have monuments shaped how people understand the past? How do monuments interact with the urban setting in which they stand? How do the meanings of monuments develop over time and how are they mediated? What is the future of public statuary? How have monuments been used to enforce political hegemony/subjugate minorities? What monumental forms might represent histories of oppression and occlusion? We aim to address these questions over the course of this workshop.
This event aims to contribute to these dialogues by fostering academic critiques of past uses of monuments and statues, whilst simultaneously engaging with present-day issues, as interpreted by practitioners who are (or have been) involved in modern-day campaigns to commission, design, or take down monuments. In this way, the workshop will bring together theory and practice in a unique manner.
My paper is titled “Breaking Bad Glass: Yale University Reluctantly Changes Course.”