From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

From Colston to Montanelli: public memory and counter-monuments in the era of Black Lives Matter

Angelica Pesarini and Carla Panico


During the protests that occurred in Bristol in June 2020, in the name of Black Lives Matter, the statue of the slave-owner Edward Colston was pulled down by protestors and thrown into the river Avon. A week later, in Milan, the statue of the journalist Indro Montanelli was spray-painted with the words “racist” and “rapist” due to his sexual relationship with an Eritrean child-bride he bought in the 1930s while fighting as a camicia nera (black shirt) for Mussolini. These two acts caused heated debates on both mainstream/traditional media and social media, producing that hybridisation of culture theorised by Henry Jenkins. As feminist scholars, we were directly involved in these debates as we publicly shared some critical reflections on the use of monuments in connection with race, gender and colonialism in Italy. Using collaborative autoethnographic approaches and thematic analysis, we discuss our own experiences within a wider investigation, concerning Italy and the UK, on the use of social media (Twitter and Facebook) as tools that shape specific forms of public memory at the expense of others. Yet, drawing from Linda Alcoff’s “epistemologies of ignorance” and Charles Mills’ “white ignorance,” we also highlight the importance of counter-memories and practices of decolonisation of public spaces in order to challenge hegemonic forms of white amnesia.


colonialism, slavery, racism, public spaces, memory, decolonisation



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