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Statues in the square: Hauntings at the heart of empire

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Abstract

In the autumn of 2000 the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, famously called for the removal of two statues of Victorian generals from Trafalgar Square. The article provides a history of the sculpture and space at this landmark location in the British capital, an intensely contested and fluid site that has been constantly redrawn and rebuilt, its statues installed and removed (most recently contemporary sculptures have been temporarily sited on the ‘fourth’ plinth and the square has been redeveloped). The commemorative role of its statuary is considered through Freud's analysis of monuments as ‘mnemic symbols’ and the tripartite relations between memorials, metropolitan space and the subject. The square and its monuments offer a site for reflection on how the past, never uncontested or always conflicted, haunts the present. Framed by Jacques Derrida's thinking on haunting from Specters of Marx (1994), the essay contemplates what the dead have to say to the living and on what the past imposes (and has already imposed) on the future.

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... London, as a postcolonial city (McIlwaine, 2008), is heavy with spectres of its imperial colonialism that are now sites of contestation rather than spaces of hubris as they were intended (Schubert and Sutcliffe, 1996;Driver and Gilbert, 1999;Cherry, 2006). (Mora 2014). ...
Thesis
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