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Colonial Statues on Twentieth-Century Film

Still from Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin! (2003).
Credit: X-Filme Creative Pool. Distributed by X Verleih AG (through Warner Bros.)

Introduction

Of all the films I’ve watched throughout my life, Wolfgang Becker’s Goodbye Lenin! (2003), a tragicomic story of an East German family living through German reunification in the 1990s, has stayed in my memory the most. I’m not sure exactly why: it might be Yann Tiersen’s touching soundtrack that moves between the melancholic and the joyful, the sense of this ordinary family navigating the winds of historical change, or the conflicting feelings that come from the transition from socialism to capitalism as history dramatically shifts gears. One particularly evocative scene in the film depicts a broken statue of Lenin being flown by helicopter past the family’s mother Christiane, who stands looking on, absolutely stunned at what she is witnessing.

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Repatriating Colonial Statues in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries

Photograph of Queen Victoria’s statue in Jamaica in 1907.
Image credit: Wikimedia / York Museums Trust.

Restitution and repatriation of objects looted (from the Hindi lūṭ, or ‘to rob’) by European imperial powers has been a key aim of decolonisation campaigns across the planet, with the focus on pressuring European countries like Britain and France to return stolen colonial items to their home countries. Tracing the afterlives of colonial statues, however, reveals a different and little-known history of repatriation: that of colonial statues themselves. This blog post is about the history of Britain’s attempts to recover and repatriate statues from its former colonies as imperial rule began to crumble.

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Against Kulturpessimismus: A Plea for a Christmas Truce

Artist’s illustration of the Christmas Truce of 1914
The Illustrated London News, January 9 1915.
Image credit: Wikipedia

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Matthew Arnold
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Colonial Statues, Public Space and Masculinity in Postcolonial Britain

Introduction

The statues mapped across Britain and France as part of the Cast in Stone project have frequently been the source of controversy for their links to slavery, colonialism and racism. In this blog post, however, I would like to use colonial statues to open up a different set of conversations arounds gender and masculinity in postcolonial Britain. For if ‘everyday life is an arena of gender politics, not an escape from it’, as R. W. Connell put in in their pathbreaking work Masculinities (2005), then we need to interrogate public space as a key site in which masculinities, old and new, are represented, performed, and negotiated with across contemporary British life.