ECHOES addresses a pressing dilemma at the heart of contemporary Europe: the fact that while the history of empires and colonialism undoubtedly constitutes a shared European past, this past remains strangely silent in official narratives about Europe’s ‘heritage’; those things it values enough to save for future generations. However, at the level of Europe’s cities – where colonial heritage is often manifested in monumental symbolism and architectural materiality – we simultaneously see an increasing willingness to engage with this often problematic past, at times in highly creative, reflexive, and transnationally open ways. In the real and potential connectivities between former imperial metropoles of Europe and the cities of the formerly colonized there exists a vibrant emerging transnational and global entanglement of European colonial heritage. We argue that the EU urgently needs not just to acknowledge this phenomenon but to reflexively and progressively include it at the heart of its identity. “Europeanizing” difficult colonial heritage is becoming all the more necessary today as the EU operates in increasingly global contexts, relationships, and geographies, where its ongoing ‘deficit’ towards accepting colonialism as a part of European history collides with the palpable surplus of colonial memory in much of the outside world with which Europe grows ever more entangled.

ECHOES therefore proposes that the memory and heritage of colonialism needs to find its place in our contemporary narratives of Europe. Crucially, it should do so in ways which make these productive elements in Europe’s ongoing engagement with the wider world, not an uncomfortable silence haunting Europe’s changing forms of activity on the global stage. ECHOES will show that it is through exploring the creative activities and engagements with the colonial legacy in European and non-European cities still imbued with manifold traces of the colonial past that one might identify new forms of progressive heritage practices. This ‘Europeanizating’ of colonial heritage would not be simply a ‘post-colonial’ act, but a thoroughly ‘de-colonial’ process.

To further this agenda, ECHOES combines the innovative theoretical conceptualization of ‘de-colonial entanglements’ with deep empirical exploration of both EU institutional activities and programs together with key European and non-European city innovations and connections. The major research objectives are as follows:

  • To theoretically and methodologically develop the idea of ‘de-colonial entanglements’ as a mode of transnational and global connectivity that entails and calls for new kinds of heritage practices between Europe and countries that were formerly colonized. This requires developing and refining broader understandings of how colonial heritage palpably exists – or might be made to ‘re-emerge’ – in a de-colonial form, rather than remain encumbered by dismissive, destructive, or domesticating heritage practices (here conceptualized as those involving ‘repression’, ‘removal’, or ‘reframing’).
  • To analyse the EU’s expanding engagement with ‘heritage politics’ through investigating the (missing) place of colonialism in key EU initiatives, policies, or programs, and thus more broadly with contemporary notions of European identity and quests to legitimate the EU’s global initiatives.
  • To explore and assess heritage practices in and entanglements between European and non-European cities, focusing on city museums, artistic creations and citizen activities. Our investigation involves the following cities as nodal points of former imperial connections: Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon, Nuuk, Copenhagen, Bristol, Cape Town, Marseille, Shanghai, Amsterdam, and Warsaw.
  • To share insights and knowledge via a form of science diplomacy, thus introducing the practices in cities into EU-level debates. Europe’s de-colonial heritage could thus play a productive role in the EU’s ambitions to be an effective global player.

ECHOES consists of SIX interlocking Work Packages, for more details on these navigate the main menu or click below:
More about Work Package 1: Theory and Methodology
More about Work Package 2: Europeanizing Colonial Heritage
More about Work Package 3: City Museums and Multiple Colonial Pasts
More about Work Package 4: Entangled Cities
More about Work Package 5: Artists and Citizens
More about Work Package 6: Management, Coordination and Impact