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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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Long-memoried women: Slavery and memory in contemporary Black women’s poetry (Abigail Ward)


Abigail Ward

Long-memoried women:Slavery and memory in contemporary Black women’s poetry


This chapter takes as its inspiration Grace Nichols’s claim to be “a long memoried woman” in reference to ongoing, and inherited, memories of transatlantic slavery. Alongside Nichols’s collection I is a Long Memoried Woman (1983), I consider two works published shortly after the bicentenary of Britain’s abolition of the slave trade in 2007, Dorothea Smartt’s collection Ship Shape (2008) and M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong! (2008). Unlike white men who, in Smartt’s words, “document plenty”, black women’s voices are much harder to locate in the archive of slavery and, therefore, may be in greater need of ‘reimagining’ by contemporary poets and writers.

Dead men tell no tales,

but dead white men document plenty,

great tomes that weigh

over our living, African diasporic selves,

our living Black Mother.

— Dorothea Smartt, “Ruby Lips”1

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