Comparativ 31 (2021), Vol. 3/4

Comparativ 31 (2021), Vol. 3/4
Other title information 
Falling Statues around the Atlantic

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Organization name
Comparativ. Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und Vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung
Comparativ Universität Leipzig Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics IPF 348001 Ritterstrasse 24 04109 Leipzig GERMANY e-mail:
Connections Redaktion, Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics, Universität Leipzig

Falling Statues around the Atlantic
Ed. by Ulrike Schmieder and Michael Zeuske

Table of contents

Editorial, pp. 295f.

Aufsätze | Articles

Ulrike Schmieder / Michael Zeuske
Introduction. Falling Statues around the Atlantic: Colonizers, Enslavers, and White Abolitionists as Targets of Anti-Racist Activism and the Historical
Background of Not-decolonized Memorial Cityscapes, pp. 297-313.

The circum-Atlantic wave of tumbling monuments is connected with the Black Lives Matter movement after the racist murder of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Statues of enslavers, colonizers, colonialist politicians and missionaries, ideologues of racism, confederate generals were toppled, removed, beheaded or at least contested by protesters in the British Caribbean and Great Britain, the USA, the French Caribbean and France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Portugal... This introduction delivers an overview about what happened and gives some hints to answer the question why the year of a global pandemic crisis did not tie all people to the present problems as to be supposed, but led movements of People of Colour and other protagonists of a critical remembrance of enslavement and colonialism to argue about this past and destroy its symbols. This issue of Comparativ reunites experts in history and related disciplines writing about different countries where monuments were toppled or protested against. The authors analyse local conditions, agents, and global networks of a strong political movement in 2020, year of crises and falling statues. They do not argue for the maintenance of this monument and the removal of another, but they ask where, why and with which arguments monuments are contested by whom, and also, where statues were not smashed and why. What does remembrance or silence about the legacies of colonialism and slavery say about present societies and the relations of power? How are the arguments of activists related to results of academic historiography?

Anne-Claire Faucquez
Confederate Monuments and Historic Markers in the Former Union States
of Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio: Does Location Matter?, pp. 314-334.

The death of George Floyd, an African-American man, at the hands of the Minneapolis police in May 2020 reignited the Black Lives Matter movement and the debate over the need to erase all Confederate symbols peppering the American landscape. Most of these symbols, erected on the initiative of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and the Sons of the Confederate Veterans (SCV ) at the turn of the twentieth century, were aimed at paying tribute to Southern history and their noble cause in fighting in the Civil War. However, interestingly, some of them can be found north of the Mason-Dixon line, in non-slaveholding regions, which were staunch supporters of the Union during the War. Taking the example of the three neighbouring states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, this article is going to ask how this could happen: How could Union states celebrate the memory of the Confederacy? To answer this question, we will start by looking at the historical context of the nineteenth century, trying to understand to what extent Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York were free states as well as the role they played in the Civil War. Then, we will look at the early twentieth century, at the time Confederate monuments and historical markers were erected by the Northern chapters of the UDC and the SCV, and we will try to explain how they managed to extend their influence into the North. Finally, we will study the contemporary debates about the removal of these symbols in these three states and will try to reflect on the significance of erasing offensive markers of the past.

Ulrike Schmieder
Monuments and Street Names: Conflicts about the Traces of Enslavers and Defenders of Slavery in French Cities, pp. 335-355.

This article discusses the repercussions of the global statue toppling in 2020 in France where, with respect to the First Colonial Empire and colonial slavery, particularly the sites of memory of Minister Colbert were contested because of his role in editing the Code Noir, the French code of law on slavery. In 2021, the “wars on memory” grew more acute because of the coincidence of the bicentenary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte and the 20th anniversary of the law Taubira. President Macron sided in this conflict with the nationalist right, glorifying the reenslaving First Consul and remaining silent at the National Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade, Slavery, and its Abolitions. The current controversies about the remembrance of enslavement are presented in the broader context of the development of French politics of memory on the slavery past since the late 1980s, the debate about streets named after enslavers in the port towns and Paris, and the establishment of new sites of memory where the commemorations
of slavery are celebrated.

Martín Rodrigo y Alharilla
Memories in Dispute. Statues in Honour of Enslavers and Conquerors
in Barcelona, pp. 356-373.

At the end of the nineteenth century, three different statues were erected in Barcelona in honour of three individuals related to Spanish colonialism: Antonio López (1884), Joan Güell (1888), and Christopher Columbus (1888). The first two individuals were two prominent businessmen from the city, who had become rich in Cuba and were defenders of colonial slavery. The statue of Christopher Columbus was inaugurated to coincide with the Universal Exposition held in Barcelona in 1888. More than a hundred years later, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, many voices were raised in the Catalan capital calling for the removal of the monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus. Another initiative led to the City Council removing the statue of Antonio López in 2018. On the other hand, many other voices were raised, also in Barcelona, to defend those three statues, claiming that they deserve to remain standing in order to open a public debate on the memories of the Catalan colonial past.

Ulrike Schmieder
Controversial Monuments for Enslavers, Enslaved Rebels, and Abolitionists in Martinique and Cuba, pp. 374-393.

This article analyses what happened in the year of toppled statues and why in Martinique and Cuba, two Caribbean islands that are both marked by the history of plantation slavery up until the 19th century but have very different past and present patterns in the ethnic composition of their populations and different political systems. Afro Martinicans toppled two statues of the white abolitionist Victor Schœlcher seen by de-colonial activists as responsible for the indemnification of enslavers, before the murder of George Floyd and the new wave of the movement Black Lives Matter (BLM). They destroyed the monuments of enslavers and conquerors, too. After these events many Martinican towns set up committees to debate and decide what to do
with a tainted cultural heritage. The Cuban Aponte committee, commissioned to combat racist prejudices, expressed its solidarity with the victims of US-American racism after the murder of George Floyd, but it did not contest the remaining sites of commemoration for enslavers, pro-slavery ideologues and white racists in Havana and elsewhere. The monument for the Afro-Cuban hero José Antonio Aponte, leader of an anti-slavery and pro-independence conspiracy in 1812, has still not been built in Havana although such a memorial was promised decades ago. The debates and decisions about monuments for enslavers and racists are discussed here on the basis of their coverage in the media and in interviews held with Cubans and Martinicans
about the politics of the memory of slavery.

Claudia Rauhut
Constructing Public History of Slavery and Dealing with Colonial Monuments within the Reparations Movement in Jamaica, pp. 394-410.

The public actions of toppling and removing monuments of enslavers and colonizers by protesters in several cities of Great Britain as well as worldwide have also resonated in Jamaica. Discussions on removing statues of colonial-era icons from public spaces, although not a new phenomenon, have increased in the media and in the public discourse. In particular, for Jamaican activists in favour of slavery reparations, it has been a relevant topic for years. Public education and public history are central aspects of their broader agenda for the reparatory justice they are campaigning for at the national as well as transnational level within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Reparations Commission. Mainly composed of scholars, human rights activists, journalists, and cultural professionals from anglophone Caribbean countries, this commission urges European governments to engage in measures of reparations in order to come to terms with the legacies of transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans and of plantation slavery – legacies still shaping Caribbean societies. It embraces economic and political aspects as well as dimensions of education, health, culture, and public memory. Focusing on the example of Jamaica, the article first gives an overview of the debates and outreach activities initiated by the Jamaican National Bicentenary Committee before and after the Bicentenary of Abolition of the Slave Trade, in 2007, and by the National Commission for Reparations, founded later in 2009 (renamed the National Council on Reparation). Focusing on Jamaican scholars and activists in favour of reparations, the article emphasizes, based on my own empirical research, their commitment to public education on the history of slavery and its legacies. The second part of the article briefly discusses the relation between reparations and the current public debate on dealing with colonial monuments in Jamaica. Finally, it reflects on the activists’ visions of how a decolonized public history and memory of slavery could look like.


Fabian Gülzau / Steffen Mau
Walls, Barriers, Checkpoints, No-man’s-land. A Typology of Border Infrastructure on the African Continent, pp. 411-438.

This article investigates how African states manage their territorial borders. These borders have been drawn during the “Scramble for Africa” in a swift way by colonial powers without the participation of inhabitants. During decolonization, the colonial borders were retained in order to avoid militarized conflicts. We analyze which types of border infrastructure are maintained on the African continent today. For this purpose, we develop a taxonomical indicator of border infrastructure. The research literature assumes that African states install barriers in order to protect their precarious borders but scholars also argue that the whole continent is characterized by porous and dysfunctional borders. The analysis shows that checkpoints are installed at the majority of borders. We find that only a small number of cases are “no-man’s-land” borders. Barriers and fortified borders are only implemented in specific cases. We use case studies to develop hypothesis on the situation that drives states to fortify their boundaries.

Harald Kleinschmidt
The End of the Beginning. China and the Abandonment of the
Occidental Mode of Counting Years from the Creation of the World, pp. 439-463.

Between late Antiquity and the end of the eighteenth century, the Christian-Occidental cultural area featured the counting of years from the creation of the world (AOC chronology) intendedas a universal method of time reckoning. The practice of applying the AOC chronology drew on the Old Testament reports on the Creation, the Flood and the building of the Babylonian Tower and manifested the beliefs in the stability of the divinely ordered world, in humankind as a single descent group and in the expectation that the end of the world would be determined by divine will. It measured the duration of the world in a few thousand years. However, from the late sixteenth century, the history of China became better known mainly among European missionaries, who recognized the long duration of Chinese culture and institutions of rule. Such knowledge raised the question of how Chinese history could be fitted in with the AOC chronology. Debates about answers to this question began around the middle of the seventeenth century and eventually, in conjunction with the increasing demand for acknowledging the dynamics of a changing world, contributed to the abandonment of the AOC chronology.

Rezensionen | Reviews

A. G. Hopkins: American Empire. A Global History, Princeton 2018
by Frank Schumacher, pp. 464-468.

Elana Wilson Rowe: Arctic Governance. Power in Cross-border Cooperation, Manchester 2018
by Liubov Timonina, pp. 469-470.

Élise Féron / Jyrki Käkönen / Gabriel Rached (eds.): Revisiting Regionalism and the Contemporary World Order. Perspectives from the BRICS and beyond, Berlin/Toronto 2019
by Jens Herpolsheimer, pp. 471-473.

Benjamin Brendel: Konvergente Konstruktionen. Eine Globalgeschichte des Staudammbaus, Frankfurt am Main/New York 2019
by Anne-Kristin Hartmetz, pp. 474f.

Olaf Blaschke / Francisco Javier Ramón Solans (Hrsg.): Weltreligion im Umbruch. Transnationale Perspektiven auf das Christentum in der Globalisierung, Frankfurt am Main/New York 2019
by Klaus Fitschen, pp. 476-478.

Ingrid Miethe / Tim Kaiser / Tobias Kriele / Alexandra Piepiorka: Globalization of an Educational Idea. Workers’ Faculties in Eastern Germany, Vietnam, Cuba and Mozambique, Berlin 2019
by Immanuel R. Harisch, pp. 479-482.

Marie-Janine Calic: The Great Cauldron. A History of Southeastern Europe, Cambridge/London 2019
by Klaus Buchenau, pp. 483-486.

Claudia Bruns/Michaela Hampf (Hrsg.): Wissen – Transfer – Differenz.
Transnationale und interdiskursive Verflechtungen von Rassismus ab 1700, Göttingen 2018
by Dennis Röder, pp. 487-489.

Emily Clark / Ibrahima Thioub / Cécile Vidal (Hrsg.): New Orleans, Louisiana & Saint-Louis, Senegal. Mirror Cities in the Atlantic World, 1659–2000s, Baton Rouge 2019
by Jutta Wimmler, pp. 490-493.

Janick Marina Schaufelbuehl / Marco Wyss / Valeria Zanier (eds.): Europe and China in the Cold War. Exchanges Beyond the Bloc Logic and the Sino-Soviet, Split, Leiden 2019
by Austin Jersild, pp. 494-495.

Samuel Krug: Die „Nachrichtenstelle für den Orient“ im Kontext globaler Ver-flechtungen (1914–1921): Strukturen – Akteure – Diskurse, Bielefeld 2020
by Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, pp. 496-498

Robert Niebuhr: The Search for a Cold War Legitimacy. Foreign Policy and Tito’s Yugoslavia, Leiden 2018
by Arno Trültzsch, pp. 499-502.

Steffen Dörre: Wirtschaftswunder global. Die Geschichte der Überseemärkte in der frühen Bundesrepublik, Stuttgart 2019
by Max Trecker, pp. 503-505.

Frank Bösch: Zeitenwende 1979. Als die Welt von heute begann, München 2019
by Jennifer Allen, pp. 506f.

Piotr H. Kosicki / Kyrill Kunakhovich (eds.): The Long 1989. Decades of Global Revolution, Budapest 2019
by Zoltán Ginelli, pp. 508

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