Digital EUSTORY Network Meeting 2021
During the EUSTORY Network’s first virtual annual meeting, EUSTORY Competition Organisers not only shared digital innovations from their national projects but also focused on (post)colonial monuments that polarise.
For the first time in the history of EUSTORY, the participants from more than 20 countries met for their annual meeting in a purely digital manner. As Hamburg was originally designated as the 2021 venue, the organisers looked at current debates about the city’s colonial and postcolonial legacies and used them as starting points for a cross-border comparisons of characteristics of the cultures of remembrances in their different countries.
A keynote by Jürgen Zimmerer, Professor of Global History and director of the research center "Hamburg's (Post-)Colonial Heritage/ Hamburg and Early Globalisation" at the University of Hamburg shed light on how the Black-Lives-Matter movement together with a greater sensitivity to Otto von Bismarck's role in German colonialism triggered much opposition to the costly renovation of the 34-metre high statue of Bismarck located close to Hamburg harbour. (A video summary of his keynote in English is available here).
Following Zimmerer's input about the Hamburg monument controversy, the participants discussed different options about coping with worshipping heroes made of stone, with myths of colonial practices set in stone, with imperial or even racist formal language without simply removing the remnants of an incriminating historical epoch. In another conference session, the participants discussed this issue in view of further examples of contested monuments from their countries.
Miguel Monteiro de Barros, EUSTORY colleague from the Iberian History Competition in Portugal, described the public debate about the "Padrão dos Descobrimentos", the monumental "Monument of the Discoveries" at the port of Lisbon, which the EUSTORY Network had already dealt with at its annual meeting in Portugal in 2017. Built during the time of the Portuguese Salazar dictatorship and in its monumentality perhaps comparable to the Bismarck statue in Hamburg, the monument now houses exhibitions in its base dealing with racism and colonialism. In 2021, a monument by the Angolan artist Kiluanji Kia Henda for the victims of enslavement is to be built in the city area. Nevertheless, voices calling for the demolition of the monument at the harbour have not yet been silenced.
Colleagues from Eastern Europe provided insights into ways of dealing with Soviet monuments in their countries after the end of the Soviet Union. For example, the public "Muzeon Art Parc" of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, to which Soviet monuments were moved after 1991, offers an occasion for active engagement with the Soviet past through new arrangements, e.g. with more recent artworks in memory of the victims of Stalinism - an approach that is partly criticised again today, thirty years later. All of these examples demonstrate how crucial the question of the role of civil society is for EUSTORY. Participants of the network meeting also shared competition entries from their competitions in which pupils found creative ways to present their current views about old monuments in their original places.
The programme of the annual meeting also included possibilities for cross-border exchanges on practical experiences and new developments, especially with regards to digital innovations in the field of national history competitions.
Informal formats included cooking together or joint coffee breaks, presentations of national tea ceremonies, and, not to be missed, of course, important exchanges outside of the thematic conference sessions during this first digital EUSTORY Network Meeting.
Watch the short video of the keynote by Jürgen Zimmerer (in English)
Details of the EUSTORY Annual Network Meeting Programme can be found here.