The UvA, together with the Universities of Hull, Aarhus, Warsaw, Rennes II, and the Center for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra, have been awarded approximately €2,4 million for their ERC Horizon 2020 project on ‘European Colonial Heritage Modalities in Entangled Cities’ (ECHOES). Professor Liz Buettner (Amsterdam School of Historical Studies) will act as co-leader of two component sub-projects.
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. We argue that the EU urgently needs not just to acknowledge this dilemma 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 of colonialism needs to find its place in contemporary European heritage debates, and will place European and non-European cities still imbued with manifold traces of the colonial past at the heart of its engagement with heritage practices.
Professor Buettner and two postdoctoral researchers will engage closely with several of the project’s foci. The first (‘City Museums and Multiple Colonial Pasts’) concerns how museums like the Amsterdam Museum, the Museum of Warsaw, and the Shanghai History Museum take up the challenge of presenting and interrogating European colonial heritage, situated as they are at the crossroads of national, urban, and international historical narratives. The second (‘Europeanizing Colonial Heritage’) examines the missing ‘Europeanization’ of colonialism within scholarship on imperialism and the EU’s official and public discourses and engagement with the politics of remembrance, which to date has focused overwhelmingly on Holocaust commemoration and Stalinism but still remain largely silent about colonialism.
The project will start on 1 February 2018 and run for 3 years.