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Lai, Ten-Herng. Objectionable Commemorations, Historical Value, and Repudiatory Honouring
, Australasian Journal of Philosophy
Added by: Ten-Herng Lai
Many have argued that certain statues or monuments are objectionable, and thus ought to be removed. Even if their arguments are compelling, a major obstacle is the apparent historical value of those commemorations. Preservation in some form seems to be the best way to respect the value of commemorations as connections to the past or opportunities to learn important historical lessons. Against this, I argue that we have exaggerated the historical value of objectionable commemorations. Sometimes commemorations connect to biased or distorted versions of history, if not mere myths. We can also learn historical lessons through what I call repudiatory honouring: the honouring of certain victims or resistors that can only make sense if the oppressor(s) or target(s) of resistance are deemed unjust, where no part of the original objectionable commemorations is preserved. This type of commemorative practice can even help to overcome some of the obstacles objectionable commemorations pose against properly connecting to the past.

Comment (from this Blueprint): Many scholars in this debate have been too charitable to racists, colonialists, oppressors, and their sympathisers. While admirable, I think it is important to expose the flaws of preservationism: there is simply not much value in preservation.

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