The Anthropological Journal of European Cultures is inviting expressions of interest for a special themed issue on ‘Decolonizing Europe: national and transnational projects’ that will be edited by Patrícia Ferraz de Matos (Universidade de Lisboa) and Livio Sansone (Universidade Federal da Bahia) and published in the Fall 2021.
Pieces should be no longer than 3000 words (including references). Editors particularly welcome contributions from early career scholars and postgraduates–although they welcome submissions from established scholars too.
Interested contributors should submit a brief expression of interest outlining the proposed chapter (circa 300 words) to Patrícia Ferraz de Matos (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Livio Sansone (email@example.com) by 5 March 2021.
More information on the thematic focus of this special issue is provided below.
Decolonizing Europe: national and transnational projects
In 2020 Europe was the scene of several events that sparked off a broad debate on the need for the decolonization of thought. Historically, several European countries have had a director indirect relationship with colonialism and its practices, and with authoritarian ways of managing and exercising power. The need to decolonize thought today is therefore understandable. However, this was not always considered urgent and there was not always opportunity for it. In the post-colonial period, debates were limited mainly to academia. In approximately the last ten years, these debates have also emerged in a more systematic way, in non-academic groups or associative movements, sometimes promoted by Afro-descendant groups or communities, which seek to fight for their rights and for their representation in societies where they are not the majority or where there is not always space for their voices.
On May 25, 2020, the murder of the African American George Floyd by a white policeman in Minneapolis boosted the Black Lives Matter movement, which appeared in the USA in 2013, after the murder of another African American. In a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which several places were subject to mandatory social confinement, this murder brought many people into the streets in highly emotional demonstrations that thus called attention to the problem of structural racism in various societies. In a short time, the movement gained expression all over the world and the demonstrations supported by the Black Lives Matter idea spread out over several European cities. Under this motto, it happened that several cities in the same country had demonstrations on the same day. Despite the pandemic and the restrictions, many people went into the streets, seeking to draw attention to the excessive police violence that is often exercised against racialized individuals or more socially fragile communities.
These events aroused others that included tearing down monuments and statues of figures linked to colonialism, slavery and the slave trade and the exploitation of people in general. Although there are those who defend their maintenance in the public space, with contextualization or creating an intervention that allows reflection about their existence, for many people the presence of the statues is simply unbearable and must be removed.
All these aspects are linked to the way in which the history of Europe has been told and reinvented and the way in which certain persons are made known as winners and others as the defeated. The character of coloniality is part of a rationale and of the geopolitics of knowledge according to which some peoples, languages, continents and histories are inferior to others (Quijano, 2014). This logic is further supported by the control of knowledge and subjectivity (Mignolo, 2007). It is a story that has often brought traumatic memories and a process of restitution, reparation and repatriation is now beginning to be outlined – of inheritances, objects and stories. The aspect of representativeness is also important; the statues whose presence is under discussion are mostly of white men; and the same goes for the names of streets and squares. Although several European countries had colonies, the people who were under colonial administration are not usually considered illustrious or important enough to be remembered in toponymy. A history that also includes the stories of those who have been exploited and marginalized, and gives them dignity, is thus called for; they want to be treated as agents of history and not just as passive beings.
This movement has also brought to the public debate the place of colonial inheritances and of architectural, historical, cultural and museological heritage. This process of coming to terms with the past has included discussions about the ownership of collections of objects (including human remains) that are in European museums. Such objects were acquired in contexts of exploitation and there is a growing call for their fair return to the communities that created them and discussion of the conditions under which this could take place. This has sparked many discussions; it is sometimes argued that these formerly exploited communities no longer exist or, if they exist, they do not have the material conditions to receive the objects or that some collections (which include films and photographs) may be shared digitally and do not need to leave the countries that collected and stored them.
The proposal of this Forum is to call for contributions that offer suggestions on how to decolonize Europe and examples of efforts in this direction. The aim is to reflect on how the Black Lives Matter movement, or other similar movements, came to have repercussions around the world, and specifically in Europe, and came to contribute to the way in which Europe can be decolonized. The intention is to have examples of initiatives, debates and interventions in particular communities or more general societies, such as countries or geographical areas – in Northern, Central or Southern Europe – in a plural and broad way, including its margins and what goes beyond its geographical boundaries. It is also intended to ascertain whether strategies for the decolonization of thought are emerging separately (with individual initiatives from each country) or in a concerted manner between several countries and whether there are European guidelines in this regard.
We propose an ethnography – or is it an archeology? – of the process that we have defined as decolonization of knowledge and its practices. We suggest, among a few others, a number of specific arenas:
- Museums: the ideal site for debates about physical and metaphorical reparation and repatriation (even in Britain, at long last, the discussion is quite strong, according to the success of the recent book The Brutish Museums, 2020);
- Statues, monuments, street naming: the process of undoing of the cartography of the colonial past in the European urban space;
- School text books – these have traditionally been the vehicle for the creation or acceptance of a (neo)colonial vernacular in schools and, often, also at home;
- Information technology and new social media: how (old and new) processes of colonization and emancipation from colonialism are circulating on the web;
- Networks, flows and travel: Europe has become more porous than ever in terms of ethnic otherness and blackness, which makes the direct and not-to-be-questioned association of whiteness with being European more awkward than before. The presence and voice of intellectuals originating wholly or in part from the former colonies in European soil has created national, pan-European and transcontinental networks.
For successful submissions, the final piece would be due by 14th May 2021 for publication in October/November 2021.