The libidinal lives of statues

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, many of the statues brought down through popular direct action were subject to a variety of punitive treatments including strangulation, beheading, burning and drowning. Instrumental readings of statue politics cannot make sense of the passion, vitriol and violence that defenders and opponents of statues bring to bear on these objects. So how should we make sense of them? This chapter argues that even commentators who are sympathetic to the iconoclasm of progressive movements tend to regard their claims about statues as, at best, a means of drawing attention to the putatively more significant material issues concerning structural racism. At worst, they are seen as a diversion from these issues, reinforcing a rightwing construction of them as a ‘culture war’. Such readings of statue politics drive a wedge between the material and symbolic dimensions of politics, insisting on the priority of the former. By failing to take iconography seriously as a site of injury and reparation, they leave inexplicable the intensity of the affective attachments and antipathies vis-à-vis statues visible in a number of contemporary controversies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCollective movements and emerging political spaces
EditorsAngharad Closs Stephens, Martina Tazzioli
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781003264156
ISBN (Print)9781032205564, 9781032205601
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2024

Publication series

NameRoutledge studies in international political sociology


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