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Memory and Postcolonial Studies

Synergies and New Directions


Edited By Dirk Göttsche

In the postcolonial reassessment of history, the themes of colonialism, decolonisation and individual and collective memory have always been intertwined, but it is only recently that the transcultural turn in memory studies has enabled proper dialogue between memory studies and postcolonial studies. This volume explores the synergies and tensions between memory studies and postcolonial studies across literatures and media from Europe, Africa and the Americas, and intersections with Asia. It makes a unique contribution to this growing international and interdisciplinary field by considering an unprecedented range of languages and sources that promotes dialogue across comparative literature, English and American studies, media studies, history and art history, and modern languages (French, German, Greek, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian-Croatian, Spanish).

Combining theoretical discussion with innovative case studies, the chapters consider various postcolonial politics of memory (with a focus on Africa); diasporic, traumatic and «multidirectional memory» (M. Rothberg) in postcolonial perspective; performative and linguistic aspects of postcolonial memory; and transcultural memoryscapes ranging from the Black Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, from overseas colonialism to the intra-European legacies of Habsburg, Ottoman and Russian/Soviet imperialism. This far-reaching enquiry promotes comparative postcolonial studies as a means of creating more integrated frames of reference for research and teaching on the interface between memory and postcolonialism.

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Memory and postcolonialism

The interface between the themes of memory and (post-) colonialism has recently emerged as a powerful catalyst for rethinking and expanding postcolonial research at a time when some of the premises of postcolonial theory since the 1970s are beginning to be challenged while literary, historical and interdisciplinary research in the field continues to expand internationally. Exploring the connections between memory and (post-) colonialism from both ends, Memory Studies and Postcolonial Studies are entering into a highly productive dialogue that gives new momentum to both fields of study. At the same time, memory has been an integral part of postcolonial discourse from the very beginning. Since the emergence of postcolonial theory and research in the wake of Edward W. Said’s Orientalism (1978)1 the memory of colonial experience and history, and the critique of the politics of memory relating to the colonial period, have been part and parcel of research in this interdisciplinary and international area. Postcolonial discourse uses memory – both individual and collective – to promote critical knowledge of the history of colonialism, raise awareness of its continuing impact in the present, and work towards political, social and cultural decolonization in a globalized, interconnected and yet conflict-ridden world that continues to be marked by colonial legacies such as racism, asymmetrical power relations and uneven access to resources and opportunities. In The Empire Writes Back (1989), for example, now a classic of postcolonial theory, Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin maintain that “the rereading...

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