At: 18/11/2020 6:00pm, in cooperation with: -


Ann Rigney, University of Utrecht

Vjeran Pavlaković, University of Rijeka

Wandile Kasibe, Iziko Museums of South Africa

Jalane Schmidt, University of Virginia

Roundtable Monuments and Memory Politics, hosted by: Hanna Teichler, Goethe University


Ann Rigney, University of Utrecht. Of all the cultural carriers of memory, monuments seem to be particularly powerful vectors of debate. This brief presentation will try to explain why. It will use both historical and contemporary examples to show how monuments do matter, precisely at the point when they are being moved around, broken up, and vandalized.

Vjeran Pavlaković, University of Rijeka. In Croatia’s cultural memory of the 1990s war in Yugoslavia, the town of Vukovar represents the central figure of victimization, which has been reinforced through the construction of an elaborate memoryscape and annual commemorations. As part of the dominant narrative of Croatian victimhood and Serbian aggression, the official monuments, museums, and other memorial sites are all dedicated to Croat soldiers and civilians killed in 1991. Even though Vukovar is no longer as multi-ethnic as it once used to be, the last decade has seen numerous struggles over symbols in public space, from the use of Cyrillic script to recognizing the civilian victims of the “Other,” Serb side. This summer the Croatian government made important steps in including Serb civilian victims in commemorations dedicated to the end of the war, but Vukovar remains a sensitive, exclusive site of memory. This presentation raises the issue of pluralistic remembrance in a town designated in its entirety as “site of special reverence”, with a special focus on its monumental heritage.

Wandile Kasibe, Iziko Museums of South Africa. This brief contribution will take a critical perspective on colonial memorials, statues and tainted collections in museums as signifiers of crimes against humanity, thus requiring a highest degree of decolonial investigation. As a point of departure, I will use the Rhodes Must Fall Movement (RMF) which began at the University of Cape Town in 2015, when Chumani Maxwele threw human excrement at the Statue of Cecil John Rhodes as an institutional critique against colonial continuities and perpetuation of perceived white supremacy.

Jalane Schmidt, University of Virginia. Former slave societies wrestle with how to memorialize slavery in their public landscapes. In the Southern United States, the descendants of white slaveholders erected Confederate monuments that promoted their “Lost Cause” version of history, which erased the brutality of slavery and its role in instigating the Civil War. In contemporary Cuba, government cultural programming often presents the history of enslaved communities as a precursor to the current revolutionary era. This presentation compares two twentieth-century cases of the memorialization of slave rebellions. Early 20th century white civic leaders in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, installed a monument to a “faithful negro” who (they alleged) had been killed for his refusal to participate in an attempted 1859 slave revolt raid. The Cuban Ministry of Culture, with funding from UNESCO, in 1997 erected a monument to “El Cimarron” (runaway slave) in El Cobre, and sponsors events there on the anniversary of a local slave uprising. These monuments reveal as much about those who erected and maintain them as about the enslaved subjects they ostensibly remember.