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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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History or memory? Postcolonial politics of memory in Bernhard Jaumann’s Der lange Schatten and M. G. Vassanji’s The Magic of Saida (Dirk Göttsche)


Dirk Göttsche

History or memory?Postcolonial politics of memory in Bernhard Jaumann’s Der lange Schatten and M. G. Vassanji’s The Magic of Saida


This chapter represents an intervention in the methodological debate about the relationship between history and memory at the interface between Memory Studies and Postcolonial Studies from the perspective of literary studies. It suggests that a third category, Geschichtspolitik [the politics of memory], helps to conceptualize how the poetics of memory in broadly postcolonial writing address colonial history and its significance for the present. The focus is on a comparative reading of two contemporary novels about the memory and legacy of German colonialism in Africa: Bernhard Jaumann’s political thriller about the politics of memory in Namibia and Germany today, Der lange Schatten (2015), and M. G. Vassanji’s postcolonial poetics of East African memory in The Magic of Saida (2012), a novel that interlinks Tanzania, India and Canada in its historical memoryscape. This case study analyses the representational strategies of the two texts to explore the potential and limitations of memory narratives for what is now clearly a historical theme. Extending previous Anglo-German comparisons, it also considers how these two very different novels stand in the literary and discursive contexts of the rediscovery of colonialism as a theme in contemporary German literature on the one hand, and Anglophone postcolonial literature on the other.

In the introduction to the Cultural Memory Studies handbook Astrid Erll, one of the leading theorists...

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