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Colonialism and Decolonization in National Historical Cultures and Memory Politics in Europe

Modules for History Lessons

Edited By Uta Fenske, Daniel Groth, Klaus-Michael Guse and Bärbel P. Kuhn

Colonialism and decolonization are historical phenomena that are part of the historical experience of many European countries. This volume offers students and teachers a new understanding of how colonialism and decolonization fit into our shared European past and contains teaching materials for history classes in European schools. The contributions have been produced by the EU project CoDec, involving partners from Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Great Britain, Austria, Poland and Switzerland. Analyzing colonial pasts, processes of decolonization and memory politics in different European countries from comparative and transnational perspectives, the study presents useful sources and practical suggestions for cutting-edge history lessons in European schools.
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Colonial Patterns of Interpretation in Swiss Comics


Introduction to the Module

“Globi” is a Swiss comic book figure. He was invented in the 1930s and originally served as an advertising figure for a chain of large department stores called “Globus” (“the Globe”), selling – among other things – “exotic” products from the colonies (“Kolonialwaren”). The Globi stories quickly became very popular in the German-speaking part of Switzerland in particular. The series continues until today.1

As Swiss philosopher Patricia Purtschert has pointed out, the Globi books were part of a larger series of children’s books and audio tapes in the 20th century, using colonial images to contrast some of the “Swiss” virtues of the stories’ main characters: their boldness, industriousness and smartness. As in most Western countries, the 1970s in Switzerland were also marked by the beginnings of anti-racist criticism. Social movements and social scientists thus started denouncing “Globi” and other children’s books’ blatant racism, sexism and generally chauvinistic attitudes.2

This led to heated debates continuing until today. Some of the texts within the books were altered. However, defenders of these children’s books maintain that they are a part of Swiss “tradition”, that no racism was intended and that criticism towards these characters is an example of exaggerated “political correctness”. Criticisers and victims of racism thus become perpetrators while those defending racist imaginaries fashion themselves as victims, whose right to “freedom of speech” is violated.3

As Purtschert and others argue, the seemingly harmless children’s books are only one particular manifestation...

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