A past that keeps on giving: Britain’s colonial and post-colonial amnesia

A sign post against a brick building reads "London Borough of Haringey" with black spray paint obscuring words "... Rose Lane", and beneath in parentheses "Formerly Black Boy Lane / N15", advertising Professor Olivette Otele's talk on March 8 hosted by UBC History.


The UBC Department of History is pleased to invite you to a talk by Prof. Olivette Otele (Ph.D., FRHistS, FLSW), Distinguished Professor of the Legacies and Memory of Slavery at SOAS, University of London.

This event can be attended virtually or in-person. Refreshments will be available for in-person attendees. However you choose to join us, please register for the event.

This event is hosted by the UBC History Department. We are grateful for co-sponsorship from the Public Humanities Hub, UBC Political Science, UBC English Language & Literatures, the Peter A. Allard School of Law, UBC Green College, and the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice.

Talk Abstract

In Europe, discussions about colonial legacies of the past in the last few decades seem to be articulated around remembering and forgetting, which has resulted in a variety of viewpoints oscillating between nostalgia and resentment. Public debates in post-Brexit Britain continue to be about identities, the role of the monarchy as a unifying institution, and questions of citizenship. At the same time, arguments are being put forward alleging that scrutinising Britain’s colonial history and its legacies would further polarise debates and divide the kingdom.

The societal fracture that is the result of a global recession and the Conservatives’ austerity measures have further segmented British society. In need of a scapegoat, popular newspapers, public figures and intellectuals have turned to blaming the ills of the nation on alleged culture wars, ‘woke-ism’ and the danger posed by the removal of traces of the past, especially statues of so-called fathers of the cities or the great of the nation. There is also resistance to teaching histories that supposedly do not fit the narrative of a glorious past and are deemed controversial. This presentation will delve into colonial histories and examine how forgetting part of the kingdom’s past has further cemented contemporary inequalities and led to tragedies in Britain.

Speaker Biography


Olivette Otele


Olivette Otele (she/her/hers), Ph.D., FRHistS, FLSW, is a Distinguished Professor of the Legacies and Memory of Slavery at SOAS, University of London. Her area of research is colonial, post-colonial history and memory studies. Otele holds a Ph.D. in History from Université Paris La Sorbonne, France and received an honorary doctorate in Law from Concordia University in Canada. She is a Fellow and former Vice President of the Royal Historical Society. She was a judge of the International Man Booker Prize, has written numerous scholarly papers and books, and is also a regular contributor to the press, television and radio programmes, including the BBC, Times Magazine, The Guardian, GQ, Elle Magazine, and others. Otele is also a broadcaster and a film and documentaries consultant. Her latest books include an edited volume, Post-conflict memorialization: Missing Memorials, Absent Bodies (Palgrave Mcmillan, 2021) and African Europeans: An Untold History (Basic Books, 2022).

Wednesday, March 8, 2023
5:00-6:30 pm (Pacific Time)
Buchanan A202 and online via Zoom