Reflecting on the conference and trying to move forward.
The feedback about the conference was overwhelmingly positive. People told me that we absolutely needed to carry on and explore various ways to come together on a regular basis. All that requires financial support. Applying for grants is the way forward so I’ll explore various options in the next few months.
The quality of papers was outstanding. I would love to have them published somewhere accessible to all.
Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman has kindly shared his paper here. Just read it’s powerful.
Reluctant Sites of Memory – Closing session notes
For the closing session Professor Bambo Soyinka asked the conference delegates to speak about the aspects of the day that had resonated with them the most. Using Roger Griffith’s formula, Bambo suggested that delegates focus their answers on the theme of past, present or future, that is:
· What can we learn from the past?
· What action do we need to take now?
· How can we create a better future?
To contextualise this prompt, Bambo noted that there are big social challenges that we need to address and suggested that universities as sites of ‘memory’ have a role to play here. However, we need to get our house in order first: many cultural groups continue to feel excluded from the educational system, a sentiment which is backed by statistics collated by Advance HE.
The participants and audience members from the conference responded as follows:
Iftikhar Malik – we need to educate ourselves before we can educate others, for example on terminology. 1846 abolition of slavery in Tunisia is an example of a little-known fact that might be used in campaigns against discrimination today.
Madge Dresser – need for critical method along with historical imagination. Don’t throw out the Enlightenment baby with the bathwater. It can feel uneasy talking to e.g. Merchant Venturers, given long emphasis on structural change.
Kelly Foster – questions of duty as flagged by Nathaniel. If I don’t take forward changing digital spaces then who will? Dismantling and disrupting are important. Mount Vernon talk highlighted the role of descendants of enslaved Africans as the first heritage-keepers. How do we write their history as heritage-keepers?
Michael Ohajuru – loved Nathaniel’s ‘the Classics as White Studies’. Need to accept ‘Black Athena’.
Angelina Osborne – need a call to action to educate ourselves. Olivette has mixed together people from different disciplines and from outside the academy. Need continuing public engagement in all areas.
Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman – a key thing is the pyramid from Angelina’s presentation (on economy of enslavement and extent of complicity).
Joanna Burch-Brown – Angelina’s presentation vivid, clear and focused – made urgency of addressing teaching strategies really clear. Also highlighted Nathaniel’s points on colonial determinants of ill-health and that “lack of black was explained by black lack”.
Darren Chetty – could add to Angelina’s case-studies. Knowledge is important, as is pursuit of truth, creative and critical thinking. Be cautious with role-playing. Likes the idea of ‘deconstruct to reconstruct’.
Bambo Soyinka – closed by thanking Olivette Otele for putting together a thought provoking day and for gathering a group of diverse, high calibre presenters. We hope that this is the start of a longer conversation. TRACE (the centre for Transnational Creativity and Education) is launching a new portal that will showcase events such as today’s conference. You are all welcome to submit details about your own events and projects. Further information will be circulated in October.
As for this project: please feel free to have a look and/or leave comments on the website https://reluctantsitesofmemory.com/. We will continue this dialogue with other places of memory in the world. This research is linked to three others (Europe, Africa and North America)
Thank you Dr Catherine Fletcher for collecting some of those thoughts and Prof Bambo Soyinka for adding a few important points.