Following the 2015 Rhodes Must Fall movement in South Africa and the 2017 removing process of confederate monuments in the United States of America, statues honouring historical figures became a focal point in a broader discussion about memories and the legacy of the past in the public sphere. The research carried out in this thesis adds further empirical research and theoretical analysis to a global phenomenon observed around the world and to a growing interest in academic research regarding challenged manifestations of the past. Focusing on two case studies located in France and in Spain, I observed discussions addressing the statue of Jean Baptiste Colbert in Paris and the statue of Francisco Franco in Melilla (Spain), respectively associated with memories of slavery in France and memories of Francoist Spain. My research sought to understand interactions in recent cases of contested sites of memories through the identification and the analysis of arguments produced by different participants of the debates. Carrying out a comparative analysis between two distinct cases, the research intended to highlight similarities between them. For each case studies, I investigated several textual and visual sources, from which I identified the production of three main arguments driving the discussions. Throughout my master thesis, I contextualised the arguments in their national political and social context and investigated how they served the positions expressed by participants of the debates, seeking the removal of the statue or defending it. Analysing the role of these arguments, I guided my evaluation through three main concepts joined together, namely the concepts of collective memory, memory politics and emotions. In my research, I investigated three types of arguments produced in discussions addressing contested sites of memory. The arguments challenged, not only, the artefact that is the statue, but also, the construction and transmission of memories within the society. The construction of memories by institutional actors, emotions associated with the statues or the memories they refer to and conflicting attitudes towards the European community’s ability to shape memory policies were brought forward as arguments, strengthening positions, legitimizing demands and seeking to modify or protect the current configuration of the public space. By analysing arguments, it allowed me to recognise the purpose of the debate, the motivations of debate participants and the challenges and concerns they bring to light. Throughout my thesis, I proposed directives to better understand the issue exposed by the statues of Colbert and of Franco. Through a detail analysis of two examples, I suggested an approach which can be transferred to further cases observed across the world. My analysis allowed me to identify the discussions, where the issue came from, who was involved, what arguments debate participants brought, how these arguments strengthened their positions and what encouraged or framed their attitudes towards contested statues. While this thesis was by no means a practical guide providing advices to stakeholders confronted to the issue of conflicting memories in public spaces, it assessed the socio, cultural and political framework in which these conflicts unfolded. The assessment, strengthened by academic analysis, allowed for a better understanding of a current matter encountered in multicultural societies.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Contested statues, sites of memory, collective memory, memory politics, emotions, memories of slavery, memories of Franco
Thesis Advisor H. Dibbits
Persistent URL
Series Maatschappijgeschiedenis / History of Society
S. Bouyer. (2019, June 28). Challenging memories in public spaces: Interactions around contested statues in France and in Spain.. Maatschappijgeschiedenis / History of Society. Retrieved from