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Statues, memories and representations during the decolonial era

Statuaires, mémoires et représentations au tournant décolonial

Estatuarias, memorias y representaciones en el giro decolonial

Nakan journal, no.1. A cultural studies journal

Numéro 1 de « Nakan », revue d'études culturelles

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Published on Tuesday, September 01, 2020


Nakan aims to impulse innovation in the epistemological field of cultural margins. To this effect, the journal’s first issue will focus on the following theme: “Statuary, Memories, and Representations in the Decolonial Era”. The objective is to elucidate the recent events that saw the degradation of statues representing historical figures linked to slavery or colonialism in multiple parts of the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, and the United States. This topical issue fits in a context-based reflection on margins spurred by such social movements as Black Lives Matter, among others. What could be the core motivations leading to such actions? The journal invites scholars to a scientific investigation on statuaries and colonial discourse, heritage, memory, myth, and coterminous questions.



In the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, the United States, and various parts of the world, the statues of historical figures known for their connection to slavery or colonization have been targeted and toppled. The growing movement hints at a collective determination to censor or exclude symbols vindicating crimes against mankind. This is corroborated by the methodical destruction of two statues of French abolitionist  Victor Schœlcher in Martinique, the artistic degradation of a sculpture dedicated to Leopold II in Belgium and of a statue portraying General Lee in Virginia, and last, but not least, the toppling and spectacular projection of Edward Colston’s statue, a well-known British slave-trader, into a river in Bristol. Taken together, all these recent events seriously question the sculptural symbolism of bio-power.

Mainstream media outlets and transnational social movements (including #mustfall and #Blacklivesmatter movements) were quick to take up the issue, echoing incidentally a mix of reactions ranging from total approbation to the most scathing criticisms. What are the possible underlying motives behind such actions? Should these latest movements be seen as the rekindling of anticolonial struggles of previous decades? Could they be the resurgence or re-appropriation of memories stifled by the official memory which is promoted by States and is occasionally celebrated during public commemorations? What to do with symbols of Western domination such as statues, monuments, or signs glorifying the so-called “civilizing” mission of colonizers or abolitionists? And what about the legacies of a history perceived as glorious for some or painful for others?

To answer these questions, this inaugural issue of NaKaN – a journal of Cultural Studies promoted by Melanges Caraibes, an international association of researchers and cultural agents of the Americas and their diasporas– focuses, inter alia, on three complementary thematic axes:

Statuary, discourse, and coloniality

The persistence of acts of symbolic counter-violence against statues, relics, or other figures of colonialism or slavery brings to the forefront the issue of the relationship to the coloniality of knowledge and power (Quijano 2012). History is not, according to Ramon Grosfoguel (2002, 2007), a neutral or prejudice-free science. The Puerto-Rican sociologist’s perspectives on epistemic decolonization provide insightful clues to assess the symbolic and political impact of the transnational movement which involves people of different generations and ethnicities to openly challenge the legitimacy of such institutionalized symbols (Grosfoguel 2002, 2007).  As in Western countries, the Spanish-speaking context, with its colonial historical representations and dictatorial political past, finds a legitimate space for this questioning of statuary in lifestyles, mentalities, policies, and values intrinsically linked to this dominant historical heritage.

Memories and patrimonialization

The weight of postcolonial memories and legacies (Stannard 1992; Blanchard & Bancel, dirs. 2006), the painful liabilities of interethnic relations in a precarious socio-economic context, exacerbated by identity and community tensions, the haunting question of reparations, and lastly, those of the representation and reconstruction of subalternised cultural identities (Lefrançois & Kirchner-Blanchard 2018) are also invoked within this perspective.

Questioning the legitimacy of statuary in the public space amounts to probing the depth of the representations and collective memory shared by a group. In this perspective, Maurice Halbwachs' work leads us to distinguish between memory, the strong version, and the distributed version, an interpretation of a representation of the past. In conjunction, Paul Ricœur refers us to three notions - memory, history, oblivion - taking ethics as the main axis of his reflection. Building on the work of Ricœur, it is appropriate to study memory representations in the light of their historical evolution to understand paradigm shifts. What is the interest of history, of memory, of the old, in a new paradigm? What about the heroization of certain figures in the national consciousness of peoples?

While the desire for justice emerges as one of the most obvious avenues for analysis, other factors must be taken into account when interpreting the extent and direction of a phenomenon that is not at all discrete in its statistical nature. An underlying discourse aimed at the decolonization of the arts in the public and institutional space profoundly questions the validity of cultural relativism (Verges & Dambury 2018) and, in the process, debunks the thesis of an assumed and valued resilience among populations that have emerged from major traumas such as slavery (Charles-Nicolas & Bowser 2019). Psychological and political factors thus intersect in the interdisciplinary field of ethnicity, aesthetics, and ethics to create a synergy of a singular kind. It is therefore urgent to grasp its fundamental dynamics.

Heroes and myths

While statuary identifies with the art of creating distinctive sculptural works to pay homage to the memory of certain personalities, it is not dissociated from the crossroads of aesthetics, ethics, and politics, as these three fields combine to redefine the criteria of beauty, goodness, and truth in art and good taste. From this point of view, it must be noted that in the diasporic societies of Africa and the Americas there is often a hierarchy between statuary designated as a worthy legatee of national consciousness, based on the status of heroes in myths and great national narratives (Lyotard 1974, 1977, 1991), and native statuary emanating from the modernity of the new Creole worlds.

All in all, these historical, geocultural, artistic, and generic characteristics ultimately reflect antagonistic ideologies, representations, or imaginations. In the Western Doxa (the vision of European elites, for instance), it is part of the public environment and is the emanation, more often than not, of intentional political choices. It is intended as the consensual and accepted representation of a reading of history - the original objective being to aggregate a people, to unite, to homogenize, and to obtain the widest acknowledgment of a peculiar vision of history which, furthermore, turns out to be subjective.

But when the history of a country is marked by singular convulsions, such as those that have shaken Caribbean postcolonial societies, is it possible to envisage – from the verticality imposed by external history – to build, on the local level, a collective imaginary including all its diversalité? In other words, by concealing the dark part of history, do we not run the risk of obscuring both the peace of a nation, whatever it may be and the serenity between the various communities that make it up? The recent social events and health scandals evidence this, just as the recent social events and health scandals that are bringing back the shattered pieces of a painful past. Is it possible, therefore, to combine History and Trans-History – meant here in the Glissantian sense (Glissant 1997: 113) to invoke the concepts of "network" or "archipelago" – in communities still subalternised, caught up in the infernal spiral of the domination of peoples, colonialism and imperialism?

Submission guidelines

Contributions may take the form of original articles, case studies, analyses, syntheses, interviews, or reviews drawing upon transnational and multidisciplinary perspectives:

  • cultural studies and culturology
  • visual and performing arts
  • national, diasporic, and comparative literature
  • philosophy: aesthetics, ontology, epistemology
  • a comprehensive array of human and social sciences: history, sociology, anthropology, ethnology, political science, as well as other interconnected fields of knowledge.

Selection Process and Timeline

The selection of proposals will be done in two stages.

From 1 September to 30 October 2020: submission of abstracts and biobibliographic records

Proposals should include a title and an abstract of approximately 400 words (maximum) in the author's usual language. They should also include a short bio-bibliographic record, not exceeding 150 words.

From 1 November to 30 November 2020: selection of proposals.

The authors will be notified by 30 November 2020 of acceptance or refusal of their proposals. These will then be processed into articles limited to 35,000 characters, including spaces.

Proposals for articles, together with a short biobibliographic record, should be sent by 30 October 2020 to For any information request please send an email to

Editorial board

  • Frédéric Lefrançois,
  • Malissa Conseil,
  • Gérald Désert,
  • Cheikh Nguirane

Advisory board

  • Dominique Berthet, Université des Antilles
  • Virginie de la Cruz, Université de Lorraine
  • Anny Dominique Curtius, Université d’Iowa
  • Christelle Lozère, Université des Antilles
  • Buata Malela, Centre Universitaire de Mayotte
  • Nestor Ponce, Université de Rennes 2
  • Ibra Sene, College of Wooster, Ohio


  • 30 October 2020: deadline for submission of proposals (abstracts and biobibliographic records)

  • 30 November 2020: notification of acceptance or rejection of proposals to authors
  • 30 March 2021: deadline for receipt of the full text of articles
  • 30 May 2021: return of double-blind expertise
  • 30 June 2021: publication of NaKaN Issue No. 1

Suggested references

Achille, Etienne, Charles Forsdick et Lydie Moudileno, 2020, Postcolonial Realms of Memory : Sites and Symbols in Modern France, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Atwood, Margaret, 1998 [1981], Bodily Harm, New York: Penguin.

Bernardino-Costa, Joaze, Nelson Madonado-Torres et Ramon Grosfoguel, 2018, Decolonialidade e pensamento afrodiaspórico, Belo Horizonte: Aútentica.

Benitez-Rojo, 1996 [1992], Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective, trans. James Maraniss, 2nd edn, Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press.

Bancel, Pascal et Pascal Blanchard (dirs.), 2011, Culture postcoloniale 1961-2006, Paris : Autrement.

Boidin, Capucine et Fátima Hurtado López, 2009, « La philosophie de la libération et le courant décolonial », Cahiers des Amériques latines [En ligne], n° 62 | 2009, mis en ligne le 31 janvier 2013. URL :

Bongie, Chris, 1998, Islands and Exiles: The Creole Identities of Post/Colonial Literature, Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Charles-Nicolas, Aimé J. et Benjamin Paul Bowser (dirs.), 2018, L'esclavage: quel impact sur la psychologie des populations ?, Paris : Campus.

Fabel, Robin F. A., 2000, Colonial Challenges: Britons, Native Americans, and Caribs: 1759–1775, Gainesville, University Press of Florida.

Glissant, Edouard, 1997, Traité du tout-monde. Poétique IV., Paris: Gallimard.

Gonsalves, Ralph E., 2001, The Politics of Our Caribbean Civilisation: Essays and Speeches, Kingstown: Great Works Depot.

Grosfoguel, Ramón, 2003, "Cambios conceptuales desde la perspectiva del sistema-mundo", Nueva Sociedad, n° 183: 151-166.

Grosfoguel, Ramón, 2002, "Colonial Difference, Geopolitics of Knowledge, and Global Coloniality in the Modern". Review. Vol. 25, n° 3: 203-224.

Grosfoguel, Ramón, 2006, « Les implications des altérités épistémiques dans la redéfinition du capitalisme global. Transmodernité, pensée frontalière et colonialité globale », Multitudes, n° 26, 2006/3 : 51-74.

Grosfoguel, Ramón, 2007, "Latinos(as) y la descolonización del imperio estadounidense en el siglo XXI". Tabula Rasa. Vol. 6: 115-135,

Halbwachs, Maurice, et Jeanne Alexandre, 1950, La mémoire collective. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Lefrançois, Frédéric & Catherine Kirchner-Blanchard, 2018, « Décoloniser l’imaginaire esthétique : vers une écriture de nouveaux paradigmes caribéens », Revue d’études décoloniales, n° 1,

Lewis, Linden, 2003, Exploring the Intersections of Gender, Sexuality and Culture in the Caribbean, Gainesville: University of Florida Press.

Lyotard, Jean François, 1974, Économie libidinale, Paris: Éditions de minuit.

Lyotard, Jean-François, 1977, "Sur la position de l'objet pictural" » Actes Du VIIe Congrès International D'esthétique, vol. 2: 569-571.

Lyotard, Jean-Francois, 1991, Inhuman: reflections on time, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Mignolo, Walter D., 2000, Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking, Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Mitchell, James F., 1996, Guiding Change in the Islands, Waitsfield: Concepts Publishing.

Mitchell, James F., 1989, Caribbean Crusade, Waitsfield: Concepts Publishing.

Stannard, David E., 1992, American Holocaust: Columbus and the conquest of the New World,  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Vergès, Françoise et Getty Dambury (dirs.), 2018, Décolonisons les arts ! Paris : L’Arche


  • Fort-de-France, Martinique (97200)


  • Friday, October 30, 2020


  • statuaire, représentation, mémoire, culture, identité, études décoloniales, Amériques, mouvement transational, patrimoine, art public urbain, politique culturelle, ethnicité, esclavage, colonisation, anthropologie, statuaire, sculpture


  • Frédéric LEFRANCOIS
    courriel : frederic [dot] lefrancois [dot] scholar [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Buata Malela
    courriel : buata [dot] malela [at] gmail [dot] com

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Frédéric LEFRANCOIS
    courriel : frederic [dot] lefrancois [dot] scholar [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Statues, memories and representations during the decolonial era », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, September 01, 2020,

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