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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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An empire remembered? Collectivization and colonialism in Mukhamet Shayakhmetov’s memoir The Silent Steppe (Alun Thomas)


Alun Thomas

An empire remembered?Collectivization and colonialism in Mukhamet Shayakhmetov’s memoir The Silent Steppe


This chapter considers some of the tensions present in Mukhamet Shayakhmetov’s Bezmolvnaia Step´ (1999; The Silent Steppe: The Memoir of a Nomad under Stalin, 2006), which relates the author’s adolescent experiences of collectivization and repression in early Soviet Kazakhstan. The chapter argues that Shayakhmetov exhibits the same ambivalence about the Soviet project as is common in contemporary Kazakhstan, with a representation of the early USSR as both an imperial space and a postcolonial space.

Introduction: Postcolonial Kazakhstan?

The collectivization of agriculture in the Soviet Union, beginning in the late 1920s and largely finalized by 1934, is among the most notorious policies implemented by Joseph Stalin and the Communist Party. Following poor harvests and a crisis in the state procurement of grain, Moscow began endorsing the persecution of class enemies and the provocation of class war in the countryside as a means of raising yields. This culminated in the forcible dispossession of communities across the USSR, a massive confiscation of property, widespread repression and the formation, under coercion, of collective farms in place of privately owned farmland. Perhaps 8 million perished in the famine and violence which resulted from this campaign.

Collectivization had a particularly egregious impact in the Kazakh Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (KASSR), precursor to today’s←539 | 540→ Kazakhstan. The First Secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party, Filipp Goloshchekin, implemented collectivization...

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