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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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Writing Rwanda: The languages of killing and suffering (Christopher Davis)


Christopher Davis

Writing Rwanda: The languages of killing and suffering


This essay looks at the function of language before, during and after the Rwandan genocide, and makes the case that our understanding of what happened relies upon the language that underpins it. After examining the way that language played a vital role in the Hutu call to arms in the lead up to the events of April 1994, the essay offers readings of two writers from outside Rwanda: French journalist Jean Hatzfeld and Franco-Canadian novelist Gil Courtemanche (A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, 2000). In both cases, I explore the idea that the tissue of language, at best, offers only a clouded mirror to what happened in the genocide, but that the two writers respond to the demand for original and underused linguistic strategies – strategies that prevent the transformation of the genocide into an abstract historical phenomenon.

The present study is primarily an examination of writing on the Rwandan genocide. It looks at the function of language leading up to, during and after the events of 1994, before discussing what relationship writing about the genocide shares with the suffering endured because of it. In doing so, this chapter brings into focus the idea that language was fundamental to the origins of the genocide in a number of ways. I argue that it was one of the main mobilizing forces at work in the Hutu call for violence in 1994, while...

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