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October 25 , 2010

Contested Histories in Public Space

Memory, Race, and Nation


Contested Histories in Public Space brings multiple perspectives to bear on historical narratives presented to the public in museums, monuments, texts, and festivals around the world, from Paris to Kathmandu, from the Mexican state of Oaxaca to the waterfront of Wellington, New Zealand. Paying particular attention to how race and empire are implicated in the creation and display of national narratives, the contributing historians, anthropologists, and other scholars delve into representations of contested histories at such “sites” as a British Library exhibition on the East India Company, a Rio de Janeiro shantytown known as “the cradle of samba,” the Ellis Island immigration museum, and high-school history textbooks in Ecuador.

Several contributors examine how the experiences of indigenous groups and the imperial past are incorporated into public histories in British Commonwealth nations: in Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum; in the First Peoples’ Hall at the Canadian Museum of Civilization; and, more broadly, in late-twentieth-century Australian culture. Still others focus on the role of governments in mediating contested racialized histories: for example, the post-apartheid history of South Africa’s Voortrekker Monument, originally designed as a tribute to the Voortrekkers who colonized the country’s interior. Among several essays describing how national narratives have been challenged are pieces on a dispute over how to represent Nepali history and identity, on representations of Afrocuban religions in contemporary Cuba, and on the installation in the French Pantheon in Paris of a plaque honoring Louis Delgrès, a leader of Guadeloupean resistance to French colonialism.

Contributors. Paul Amar, Paul Ashton, O. Hugo Benavides, Laurent Dubois, Richard Flores, Durba Ghosh, Albert Grundlingh, Paula Hamilton, Lisa Maya Knauer, Charlotte Macdonald, Mark Salber Phillips, Ruth B. Phillips, Deborah Poole, Anne M. Rademacher, Daniel J. Walkowitz

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