Commemorating Evildoers


Prof. Dr. Oliver Hallich (University of Duisburg- Essen, Germany);
Dr Paula Satne (University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom);

*All times are British Summer Time (BST)

Wednesday 8th September

First Session

10.30 am to 14.20 pm (UK time)

11 to 11.50hs: Might erasing history be problematic after all

Dr. Anja Berninger (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen)


12 to 12.50hs: It was a different time: Judging the past by today’s standards

Dr Alfred Archer (Tilburg University)


13.10hs to 14.20hs: Memorial culture and the work on myth

Ms Seraphine Appel (Pompeu Fabra University)


Second Session

15.30 to 17.20 hs (UK time)

15.30 to 16.20 hs:  Commemorations as speech acts

Ms Marie Evanston (University of California at Riverside)


  1. 30 to 17.20hs: Evaluating the ‘free speech’ objection to removing tainted political symbols

Dr Tuomas Manninen (Arizona State University)


Thursday 9th September 2021

Third Session

11 to 14.20hs (UK time)

11 to 11.50hs: Decolonising statues: metaphysics and history

Dr Jana Cattien (University of Amsterdam) and

Dr Richard Stopford  (Durham University)


12 to 12.50hs:  Aesthetic moralism and public statuary

Dr Craig K. Agule (Rutgers University – Camden)


13.10 to 14.20hs: Appropriate admiration

Dr Kyle Fruh (Duke Kunshan University)


Fourth Session

15.30 to 17.30hs (UK time)

15.30 to 16.20hs: Vindicating cross-generational blame: Why toppling and defacing statues of Christopher Columbus and Robert E. Lee is appropriate

Dr Eric Bayruns García  (California State University, San Bernardino)


Keynote talk: 16.30 to 17.30hs: Commemoration and the vice of globalism

Dr Benjamin Matheson (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich)


17.30 to 18hs

Informal social chat & end of workshop (bring your own drinks)


Edward Colston (1636–1721) was a Bristol-born merchant who made some of his fortune from the slave trade. Yet, in the 19th century he was seen mainly as a philanthropist. In 1895, the city of Bristol erected a monument in his honour in the area now known as The Centre. The statue became controversial by the end of the 20th century, as Colston’s activities as a major slave trader became more widely acknowledged. Since 1990, there had been unsuccessful campaigns and petitions calling for the removal of the statue. On 7 June 2020, during the global protests following the killing of George Floyd in the United States, Colston’s statue was pulled down by demonstrators. The statue was then rolled down Anchor Road and pushed into Bristol Harbour. A debate then ensued. While some saw the toppling of the statue as an act of vandalism entailing criminal damage, others saw it as a legitimate way of condemning atrocity and protesting racism and inequality. Others thought that the statue should have been brought down with the consent of the local government and the general public.

The toppling of Colston’s statue raises a variety of issues in philosophy, ethics and political theory, including issues related to the ethics of memory and forgiveness, the moral and political value of protesting, the legitimacy of historical moral judgements, the relationship between aesthetic and moral value, among many other issues.

The workshop will invite selected speakers and also call for papers to explore some of the following questions from a variety of theoretical and political perspectives:

  • What is the proper purpose of monuments and statues?
  • What is commemoration and what is it for?
  • How should we decide what monuments to erect (and keep) in public spaces?
  • Should we judge historical figures (and past authors) by today’s moral standards?
  • What kind of respect, if any, is an artwork owed?
  • Is it morally acceptable to destroy public artistic monuments?
  • Can a monument be artistically beautiful or valuable while being also morally despicable?
  • Are the protestors guilty or erasing history (“cancel culture”) or are they engaging with history. In other words, are they desecrating or are they in fact making a commemoration?