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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 the contemporary postcolonial condition in José Eduardo Agualusa’s novel A General Theory of Oblivion (Emanuelle Santos)


Emanuelle Santos

Memory and the contemporary postcolonial condition in José Eduardo Agualusa’s novel A General Theory of Oblivion


Despite the significance of memory for the understanding of the postcolonial condition, the concept of postcolonial memory remains largely unaddressed by Postcolonial Studies. Through the analysis of the key role played by memory in A General Theory of Oblivion by the Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa, this chapter traces some of the reasons why memory seems to have been forgotten by mainstream postcolonial critics, and proposes that this oblivion is tied to the failure in considering the multi-layered structure of contemporary postcolonialities.


Memory has always been important in the field of Postcolonial Studies. Even if virtually invisible, absent from the titles of books, essays and articles, memory inhabits every aspect of the postcolonial. Be it at the level of representation or at the level of critique, the intrinsic connection between the postcolonial condition and the ills resulting from the lingering of coloniality in the aftermath of independence is in itself an act of memory. Yet, the constitutive relation between memory and postcoloniality in the realm of literary studies is often overlooked. While both memory and postcoloniality tend to be seen as social dimensions of literature, in which the first relates to a society’s cultural memory and the latter to the representation of a specific set of sociohistorical conditions, few are the attempts dedicated to understand the articulation of their impact...

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