Dear Reader,

 The statues/memorials debate is all the rage in former colonial powers like Britain and globally, often in tandem with wider anti-racist and decolonial movements as Rhodes Must Fall. These campaigns have a disproportionate “bad press” compared to the media voice given to some academics like Nigel Biggar who promote the merits of colonialism.

 Historic England’s new Immortalised Season is expected to uncover “England’s Secret, Unknown or Forgotten Memorials” with a free exhibition that opens in London on 30 August 2018. The exhibition includes a selection of photographs and stories of memorials submitted by the general public and also a display of winning designs of a national competition that asked artists, architects and designers to explore what memories of the future could look like.

 Without having seen the exhibition, it is obviously difficult to say at this stage what may be of interest, but according to the media, the exhibition also explores the contested statue of Edward Colston in Bristol and highlights a mural celebrating black history icons.

 Earlier this year, Historic England and Intelligence Squared also organised a public debate characteristically framed in a polarising way: “Revere Or Remove? The Battle Over Statues, Heritage And History”. The problem with this popular talk show format that seeks to find a universal solution is that it avoids a more mature, contextual and informed public conversation.

 Although the speakers in this particular debate, which included Afua Hirsch, David Olusoga, Peter Frankopan and Tiffany Jenkins were subtle informed experts in their own fields, this divisive format somewhat encourages two broad unhappy stereotypical sides to emerge: the “militant monoculturalists of the Right” on one side and the “militant multiculturalists of the Left” on the other side, as some commentators have already observed.

 The “militant monoculturalists of the Right” tend to see themselves as “patriotic”, “religious” and supportive of “unregulated capitalism”. They argue that is too easy to remove and judge public statues through today’s lens because these statues were in step with the European colonial mindset. They see statues as “an echo in stone of a different time” that allow us to understand the present.

 On the other side of the debate, the “militant multiculturalists of the Left find “dead white European males” deplorable; they usually have hybrid national identities and argue that statues of controversial figures can be removed because they represent individuals whose actions and legacies need no celebration in public places.

 This polarising approach is always problematic, as Rhodes Must Fall supporters know too well. Contrary to simplistic media reporting, that campaign is actually not just about a statue. It is about transforming the university’s Eurocentric colonial foundations by widening the curriculum, improving Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic representation, welfare etc. Even some conservative media seem to have reconsidered their reporting. A forthcoming book, ”Decolonising The University”, is tipped to widen our understanding of this topic. Decolonised academic research and knowledge is evidently at the heart of the memorials debate.

 Statue politics have also evolved in the US. Writing for the cultural magazine Hyperallergic, Bob Beatty puts forward “Six Strategies for Dealing with Controversial Monuments and Memorials”, ranging from “doing nothing” to “adding monuments that honour other stories and people”. A new book, “Controversial Monuments and Memorials: A Guide for Community Leaders”, also promises to uncover “the breath and scope of community discussions around monuments and memorials”.

 Similarly, in the UK, informed by public ethics and activism for the Countering Colston Campaign in Bristol, Dr Joanna Burch-Brown convincingly argues in an excellent (open access) article titled “Is It Wrong To Topple Statues And Rename Schools?”, that a pragmatic and proportionate approach based on deep knowledge and judgment of local history and global networks of power is necessary to change prevailing values and understanding. The buzzwords are “remembering” instead of “revering”, “contextualising” instead of “airbrushing”, and always “historical evidence”, “dialogue”, “education” and “artistic interventions”, because Black Lives Matter!


 Thushari Perera






Revere Or Remove? The Battle Over Statues, Heritage And History

Talk at the Emmanuel Centre, London, 14 May 2018

Remove or Revere

 “Statues and memorials to famous figures of the past adorn our towns and cities. But what should be done when some of these figures have come to be seen by many people as controversial symbols of oppression and discrimination? In Britain, the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign hit the headlines when it demanded the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oxford’s Oriel College, of which he was a leading benefactor, because of his colonialism. In the US, violent protests in Charlottesville were sparked by a decision to remove from a park a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general in the American Civil War, because of the association of the Confederacy with slavery. Passions run high on both sides. Are those calling for the removal of controversial statues seeking to right an historical injustice or are they trying to erase history? And are those who object to removing memorials defending the indefensible or are they conserving historical reality, however unpalatable that may be? To discuss these emotive questions and examine the broader cultural conflicts which lie behind them, Intelligence Squared are joining forces with Historic England and bringing together a stellar panel including historians David Olusoga and Peter Frankopan, the journalist and author Afua Hirsch and the cultural commentator Tiffany Jenkins.”

Watch & Listen Here



The Battle for Britain’s Heroes

Broadcasted by Channel 4 (UK) on 29 May 2018

“From Nelson with his pro-slavery position to Churchill and his views on race, should we rethink the heroes who we honour? Should statues of some of Britain’s greatest heroes even come tumbling down?”

Watch Here (Needs Registration/Login)



Joanna Burch-Brown (2017)

“Is It Wrong To Topple Statues And Rename Schools?”

Journal of Political Theory and Philosophy, 1, 59-88

Colston Statue with Red Slavery Chains

“In recent years, campaigns across the globe have called for the removal of objects symbolic of white supremacy. This paper examines the ethics of altering or removing such objects. Do these strategies sanitize history, destroy heritage and suppress freedom of speech? Or are they important steps towards justice? Does removing monuments and renaming schools reflect a lack of parity and unfairly erase local identities? Or can it sometimes be morally required, as an expression of respect for the memories of people who endured past injustices; a recognition of this history’s ongoing legacies; and a repudiation of unjust social hierarchies?”

Open Access Here



 Controversial Monuments and Memorials: A Guide for Community Leaders

Controversial Monuments and Memorials Book

Edited By David Allison

Published by Rowman & Littlefield

Publication Date UK: 30 July 2018

“Out of the chaos and pain of Charlottesville, museum professionals, public historians, and community leaders must move quickly to face the challenges of competing historical memory, claims of heritage desecration and the ongoing scourge of racism. This book takes on the tough issues that communities across America—and analogous locales overseas—must face as white supremacy, political quagmires and visions of reconciliation with the past collide. The events of summer of 2017 that culminated in Charlottesville are outgrowths of ongoing dialogues and disputes about controversial history that encompass numerous historical situations and touch every part of US history. Strategies for working effectively with communities will be explored, and the book will delve into the ways that other countries have attempted to overcome their painful pasts. In addition, this book will highlight essays and case studies from numerous museum professionals, scholars and civic leaders as they grapple with the past they interpret for their visitors. The book will be framed by questions that help museum community leaders make sense of the competing historical narratives and political machinations that drive the current controversy around monuments and memorials— *How and when do you remove an offensive monument? Hint: It’ll take more than a screwdriver…. *How can we be intentional about contextualizing the history and the motivations for building monuments for our visitors? *How can communities be responsive without forsaking the historical record? Here is a guide to collective introspection, awareness of our own biases, and thoughtful community responsiveness which are the tools that will make this engagement meaningful and lasting.”

Find out more here



Decolonising The University

Decolonising the University

Edited by Gurminder K. Bhambra, Dalia Gebrial, Kerem Nişancıoğlu

Published by Pluto Books

Publication Date: 20 August 2018

“In 2015, students at the University of Cape Town demanded the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, the imperialist, racist business magnate, from their campus. The battle cry ‘#RhodesMustFall’ sparked an international movement calling for the decolonisation of the world’s universities. Today, as this movement grows, how will it radically transform the terms upon which universities exist? In this book, students, activists and scholars discuss the possibilities and the pitfalls of doing decolonial work in the home of the coloniser, in the heart of the establishment. Subverting curricula, enforcing diversity, and destroying old boundaries, this is a radical call for a new era of education. Offering resources for students and academics to challenge and resist coloniality inside and outside the classroom, ‘Decolonising the University’ provides the tools for radical pedagogical, disciplinary and institutional change.”

Find out more about the book here




Decolonising The University

29 August 2018, 19:00

Housmans Bookshop, London

Book Tickets for the Launch




12 July 2018 – 23 September 2018



Madras to Bangalore Postcards

“This exhibition covers a selection of picture postcards from the Indian cities of Chennai and Bengaluru between 1900 and the 1930s; then known as Madras and Bangalore. They were the two most important colonial cities in British south India. By pairing these together, this exhibition tells a tale of how these two cities, although separated by 215 miles, were linked through a set of common representational and material practices. From Madras To Bangalore explores how postcard practices imagined, figured and performed a colonial encounter by depicting cities’ monuments, street, people and places. In the early decades of the 20th century, postcards were at the height of their popularity and were an innovative and affordable form of communicating. It has been estimated that in Britain alone approximately six billion postcards passed through the British postal system between 1902 and 1910. The postcards featured in this exhibition offer a pictorial vocabulary that translates the urban environment into “sights” that can be isolated and recorded, collected and organized into scrapbooks. These postcards are not so much ‘a window into the past’, but a set of discursive coordinates that articulated the social and cultural geography of the city and its inhabitants, for a global and predominantly European audience.”

Find out more here


21 July 2018 – 16 September 2018



Slaves of Fashion

“Slaves of Fashion: New Works by The Singh Twins explores the history of Indian textiles, Empire, enslavement and luxury consumerism, and the contemporary relevance of these issues in the world today. Focusing on the relationship between Britain and India, hidden details of Europe’s colonial past and its legacies are revealed, including current debates around ethical trade and responsible consumerism. The exhibition showcases almost 20 new artworks by the internationally-renowned artists. Primarily known for their entirely hand-painted work in the Indian miniature tradition, The Singh Twins’ new work combines traditional hand-painting techniques with digitally created imagery. The series includes 11 digital fabric artworks displayed on lightboxes, with each one highlighting a different theme relating to India’s textile industry. A further nine paper artworks explored the relationship between trade, conflict and consumerism in an age of Empire and the modern day. Also included in the exhibition are highlights from over 100 objects across National Museums Liverpool’s collection, which inspired the exhibition.”

Find out more here

The Singh Twins: www.singhtwins.co.uk


7 August 2018 – 28 September 2018


The Untold Story Of Black British Community Leaders In The 1960s And 1970s


Expectations BCA

“Come and experience the first ever photography exhibition ‘takeover’ at the Black Cultural Archives using photographs taken by Neil Kenlock. Known for his captivating work focusing on key moments in post Windrush Britain, Kenlock’s powerful Expectations exhibition is no exception. For the first time visitors can enjoy the communal areas of the building, while exploring ideas of the black British leadership experience in the 1960s and 1970s. The Expectations Exhibition is curated by Kenlock’s daughter, Emelia Kenlock, who uses a selection of his black and white prints. Each photo tells an honest and unique story of African and Caribbean leaders who Kenlock was lucky enough to capture, many of whom are unsung heroes of British history. Visitors will see rare prints of key figures such as the formidable anti-discrimination, women’s and squatter’s rights campaigner Olive Morris. There will also be a special print that captured a historic meeting between the community pioneer Courtney Law’s and of the Home Secretary of that time, Lord Jenkins. Other prints in the exhibition include: Darcus Howe (broadcaster and civil rights campaigner), Lord David Pitt (Baron of Hampstead, Labour Party politician, GP and political activist), Arthur Wint OD MBE (first Jamaican Olympic gold medalist and Jamaican High Commissioner), Steve Barnard (first black BBC radio presenter with a reggae music show).”

Find out more here


September – October 2018



Asia House Bagri Foundation Lit Fest 2018

“Mishal Husain, Jeffrey Archer and Nish Kumar are just a sample of the line-up for the 12th edition of the festival.”

Find out more here


September – October 2018



Black and Banned Films

“The films you weren’t allowed to see: drama and documentaries that offer unique and challenging perspectives.”

Find out more here


7 September 2018 – 6 October 2018



The Village Theatre

“Village life for Jyoti is simple: the people work hard, sing and live off the earth. She would much rather devour a delicious meal than think about a suitable partner. But when the Inspector and his men arrive back in town, things quickly begin to sour. The Inspector’s reign of terror sees him commit unspeakable acts against the village with young Jyoti in his sights, pushing everyone to breaking point. Will she dare scorn his advances? This new adaptation by April De Angelis of Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna, is transported to contemporary India, and set against a backdrop of political unrest. Nadia Fall directs “The Village” which opens her inaugural season as Artistic Director of Stratford East. “The Village” is a call for courage in the face of tyranny and a warning shot to corrupt authority.”

Find out more here


Workshop Date: 8 November 2018



What's Happening In Black British History IX

“Following the success of our previous events in London, Liverpool, Bristol, Preston and Huddersfield, we would like to invite you to the ninth of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies’ What’s Happening in Black British History Workshops (WHBBH9) at Senate House, London, on Thursday 8th November. The aim of the series is to foster a creative dialogue between researchers, educationalists (mainstream and supplementary), artists and writers, archivists and curators, and policy makers. It seeks to identify and promote innovative new research into the history of people of African origin or descent in the UK and facilitate discussion of the latest developments in the dissemination of Black British history in a wide variety of settings including the media, the classroom and lecture hall, and museums and galleries, thus providing an opportunity to share good practice. We welcome proposals for papers and presentations on a wide variety of themes relating to the history of people of African origin or descent in the UK.

As this year is the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush we are particularly keen to receive papers on the Windrush Generation and their impact on Britain. We would be delighted to hear from researchers, educationalists, archivists and curators or others interested in offering a presentation, lasting for 15-20 minutes. Please submit a title and a brief description of your presentation either in writing (in which case, of no more than 300 words) or in some other form (for example a clip or podcast) to Dr. Miranda Kaufmann by 7th September 2018.

In addition, we would be happy to consider proposals for a complete panel. The panel should have a coherent unifying theme, and the proposal should include the abstracts of three related presentations and the names and affiliations of the presenters. We would also be interested in providing A-level students, undergraduates or graduate students with an opportunity to give presentations on projects relating to Black British History. The day will run from 11am to 6.00pm, followed by a Reception. There will be a registration fee of £20 (£10 for students/unwaged) to cover the costs of lunch and refreshments. Requests to register should be sent to olga.jimenez@sas.ac.uk.”

Find out more here


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