Erasing History? The Politics of Commemoration from the Rename Trutch Street Campaign to the Removal of the John A. Macdonald Statue in Coast Salish Territory

Authors: Reuben Rose-Redwood*, University of Victoria
Topics: Cultural Geography, Historical Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: critical toponymy, commemoration, street naming, statue removal, politics of memory and erasure
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Roosevelt 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The renaming of city streets and the removal of statues, monuments, and other memorials from public spaces have become major focal points of political conflict in recent years. When a street is renamed or a statue removed, critics often claim that such actions “erase history” and are forms of “historical vandalism.” The problem with this line of argument is that it conflates the need to remember the past with the honoring and idolizing of particular historical figures through acts of public commemoration. Yet the question of commemorative “erasure” is an important one that deserves critical reflection concerning what exactly is being placed under erasure and how monumental forms of commemoration can themselves serve as political technologies of collective amnesia. In this paper, I draw upon my own experiences with participatory action research to examine the politics of memory and erasure as they have played out in the efforts to rename Trutch Street and the removal of the John A. Macdonald statue from Victoria's City Hall in Coast Salish Territory.

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