B24/7 Article: It’s time to challenge colonial ways of thinking

The felling of Colston’s statue during the Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol in June 2020 was an epiphanic moment for me. I had previously been of the opinion that its presence needed some sort of corrective, like the suggested plaque explaining that Colston had actually traficked thousands of people from Africa into the slave trade and was no longer considered quite the hero. But looking back, I just thought a footnote needed to be added to the history. I hadn’t realised how the statue was allowing colonial ideals to linger on in our culture, mingling around in the present and affecting how we imagine, and what we imagine to be possible, for our futures.

Colston’s felling in Bristol. Photo by Harry Pugsley

Newly and acutely aware that colonialism was not an episode from the history books but that colonial logic still pervades in our culture today, it was all too easy for me to see it embedded in the literary tradition of utopia. The trope of the European, who ‘discovers’ a far-off land, and whips the natives into shape to create an ideal society? Uh-oh.

Now I see colonialism, so what do I do?

I immediately wanted to address this with the Bristol Utopian Book Collective, so I put together a programme of events discussing Black and Indigenous anti-colonial utopias. I wrote a short essay about what we would be reading and why, and it was published as an opinion piece in local newspaper Bristol 24/7.

You can read the article ‘It is time to challenge colonial ways of thinking wherever they are found in our culture’ in full here. And please do, it neatly pinpoints where the problem of colonialism arises in the very foundation of the genre of utopia, and documents my initial thoughts on how to approach this legacy. Just don’t read the comments.

Colston heading for the water. Photo by Colin Moody