Why People Are Toppling Monuments to Racism

By: Verity Platt,  Scientific American
July 3, 2020

Statues are ideological powerhouses that compress whole systems of authority into bodies of bronze or marble

With the wave of statue-felling currently sweeping across the United States and United Kingdom, it is clearer than ever that we are living at a time of iconoclasm. From the Protestant Reformation to the American War of Independence, image-breaking has served as a powerful demonstration of a break with the old order. These are not simply acts of destruction: they should rather be understood as moments of what the philosopher Bruno Latour has called “Iconoclash,” generating new images that can be powerful agents of social change. This is what we are witnessing from Birmingham, Ala., to Bristol, England, as, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, obelisks are toppled, statues are rolled into rivers, and Black ballerinas dance around the graffitied bases on which Confederate generals stand.

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Image: Protesters attempt to pull down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square, near the White House, on June 22, 2020. Credit: Drew Angerer Getty Images

Protesters attempt to pull down the statue of Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square, near the White House, on June 22, 2020.