In recent weeks, the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May 2020 has triggered worldwide anti-racism protests, along with the toppling of statues, the renaming of streets and buildings associated with slaveholders and white imperialists, and calls for the restitution of artefacts from the former colonized world currently held in many of Europe’s national and local municipal museums.
As a group of scholars critically engaged in debates over Europe’s entangled colonial heritage, we want to make the following statement:
• We reject the notion that ‘heritage’ invokes the suggestion that a traditional, white European culture is ‘under siege’ from non-white ‘radicals’ and protesters.
• Instead, we view European heritage as dynamic and malleable, rooted in forms of community knowledge that in many cases encompass traumatic experiences and memories.
• We support calls for the decolonization of Europe’s colonial heritage, a process that necessarily involves drawing on experiences and knowledge of those formerly colonized.
• We stress the importance of inter-cultural dialogue in all debates involving European colonial heritage, including restitution and the taking down or re-framing of statues and other memorials that many find offensive or harmful.
• We call on national and local agents (including museum managers and curators, educators and policymakers) to take account of marginalised voices in all debates and policy decisions surrounding Europe’s colonial heritage.
• We are committed to challenging historically produced hierarchies in research and knowledge production and contribute to developing pluriverse perspectives.
• We condemn all forms of racism, wherever they are found, as well as the systemic wrongs that racism creates.
• And, finally, we are committed to foregrounding in our work approaches and methodologies that act as forms of anti-racist expression.