WiSe 16/17: Remembering Colonialism. France and Portugal, 1962-2014
Portugal was the first European nation to build an overseas empire and the last to decolonize; France ruled over the second largest empire after the British one; both countries experienced the end of ... read more
Portugal was the first European nation to build an overseas empire and the last to decolonize; France ruled over the second largest empire after the British one; both countries experienced the end of empire through a series of extremely violent wars against national liberation movements, and both are today postcolonial societies whose political institutions, demography, and culture are deeply marked by their bygone empires.
These commonalities notwithstanding, the ways colonialism is being remembered, commemorated, left unmentioned, or silenced in the public sphere diverge considerably in both countries. In France on the one hand, competing actors have so acrimoniously fought since the early 2000s about the interpretation of the Algerian War (1954-1962) and colonialism more generally that observers have qualified these struggles for a certain representation of the past as “memory wars.” In Portugal, on the other hand, today the violent decolonization of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau (1961-1975) and its sequels spark less controversy, and the overall representations of Portuguese colonialism and its heritage tend to be more consistently positive in the public realm. However, some recent developments indicate that Portugal, too, may be moving towards a more controversial conversation about what the Empire means to its people today.
In short, what we will look at in this seminar is which narratives of colonial history and decolonization compete or coexist in both countries, who has the power to make them heard in the public arena (and who doesn’t), which interests they serve and which functions they fulfill, and what the changing history of these historical narratives has been since the independence of the last French and Portuguese colonies in 1962/1975 through to the present day. While we focus on a comparative approach, we will also look at transnational connections between both countries and beyond.
The assigned readings and the seminar discussion will be in English. The ability to read French, Portuguese, or German will be useful, but not required. You can write your seminar paper in either of these languages.
Work requirements: Regular participation; active participation (including the preparation and facilitation of one of our classes by teaming up with one or several fellow students); seminar paper.
Introductory reading: Buettner, Elizabeth, Europe after Empire. Decolonization, Society, and Culture, Cambridge 2016.