Creating Memorials, Building Identities

BookCreating Memorials, Building Identities

Creating Memorials, Building Identities

The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic

Liverpool Studies in International Slavery, 3


November 1st, 2010



Other Formats



This book investigates memorials and monuments to slavery throughout the African diaspora, but with an emphasis on Europe. It analyses not only the increasing number of physical monuments, but also the practice of remembering (and forgetting) in museums and plantation houses, and in contemporary cultural forms – visual arts, literature, music and film. A series of case studies, ranging from the 18th to the 21st century, from Senegal and Montserrat to Manchester and Paris, explore issues such as the Lancashire cotton famine, the debates around the first quayside memorial to the victims of the slave trade in Britain in Lancaster, black soldiers in World War II and the 2007 commemorations of abolition in regional museums. The book also looks at ‘guerrilla memorialisation’, its refusal to consider amnesia as an option, and the artistic interventions it has provoked. The study promotes a wide Black Atlantic perspective, while the case studies emphasise a decidedly local approach to memorialisation. Using theoretical work on memory and memorialisation, the book expands on these ideas to include the work of contemporary thinkers and writers on the Black Atlantic, such as Toni Morrison, Jackie Kay and Caryl Phillips. Comparisons are made with monuments to the holocaust and critical writings on the way it has been memorialised. The book interrogates a range of complex issues, and makes a case for the continuing importance of the legacy of slavery, whilst looking at what kind of monuments and memorials are appropriate and effective.

Written with passion and commitment, Rice’s breadth of learning, enthusiastic and engaged scholarship, as well as commitment to freedom and equality, has resulted in a book that fills the reader with conflicting emotions…anger, sadness and perhaps above all amazement…both that the cultures grown out of the slave experience are so vibrant, but at the same time that racism and exploitation still flourish.

Alan Rice’s engrossing study of the legacy of chattel slavery and the slave trade in the African Atlantic analyzes literary works, visual art, music, film, and stone monuments in order to document and champion “guerrilla memorialisation” and its power to disrupt the amnesia and repression often perpetrated by official history. This interdisciplinary project, with its wide range of reference to the enormous and growing literature on the memory of collective trauma, is an insightful and often moving critical response to the diaspora-wide search for memorials “that conserve memory without being conservative.”
Arlene R. Keizer

What Rice manages to do is join the dots between yesterday and today to show how the impact of the genocide has seeped into contemporary culture by the tools, skills and crafts of the artistic world. He takes the reader on a journey through music and the visual arts to remind the reader that we, the people of the African continent and Diaspora are strong survivors not merely victims-decedents of the blood of history.
SuAndi, National Black Arts Alliance

National Black Arts Alliance

Interdisciplinary work is often called for but rarely achieved. Alan Rice’s Creating Memorials, Building Identities is a striking example of how it is best done. With this new book, British “heritage” is considerably enriched and diversified.
Richard H. King

Rice’s book is of immense value, both in terms of its content and method.
Robbie Shilliam, Journal of African Political Economy

Journal of African Political Economy

One of the most impressive aspects of the book is the rare balance it achieves between the author's personal rage at the subject he confronts, and the need for its analytical, intellectual dissection based upon scrupulous historical research. It is itself a testament to the author's own political commitment, and thus again aligns itself with a distinguished tradition of radical British history.
Geoff Quilley, Journal of American Studies, Roundtable

Well written, in an accessible style on an important topic that deserves wider readership than an academic audience.
Hilda Kean, Journal of American Studies Roundtable

Rice’s Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic is a fine study of the complications involved in memorialising slavery in the black Atlantic is a discourse which touches upon Africa, the Caribbean, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Wasafiri #71, Vol, 27.3

With his new book on memorialization and the formation of transnational identities, Alan Rice makes an important contribution to the burgeoning field of Black Studies in Europe.
Johanna C. Kardux, New West Indian Guide

Author Information

Alan Rice is Professor in English and American Studies and Co-Director of the Institute for Black Atlantic Research, University of Central Lancashire.