The Coloniality and Decolonising of Memory NUBS 2.10
Jul 05, 2023 13:30 - 15:00(Europe/London)
20230705T1330 20230705T1500 Europe/London 4.11. Contesting the Coloniality of Memory

This panel takes as its object the nature and contestation of colonial memory. Drawing from a range of European case studies (Romania, Germany, France, and Britain), the four presentations will examine how narratives of national memory exemplify the coloniality of memory in societies which carry the afterlives of oppressive histories, including post-imperial societies. The presentations consider, in particular, how state institutions, including schooling and national heritage, produce unbelonging, silence, and invisibility in pursuit of a cohesive national memory. Within this context, we turn to the radical, decolonial possibility of memory activism, in former metropoles and former colonies alike. Case studies will include a memorial site and museum of slavery in Barbados, performances by Afro-European artists, and walking tours highlighting German colonial history. These interventions hold the potential to decolonise memory in practice and theory alike. In that vein, we will reflect on the emergence of postcolonial memory cultures, alongside the promise and pitfalls of memory as decoloniality.

Meghan Tinsley

Memory as Coloniality and DecolonialityEuropean colonialism is an epistemic project, in which collective memory plays a crucial role. Memory creates linear histories and consolidates cohesive identities, whilst erasing difficult or marginalised histories and creating historical Others (Nora 1992[1984], Olick 2007, Ward 2015). Memory, however, is also never singular: the dominant narrative of the past constantly interacts with, and is contested by, grassroots counter-narratives (Nicolaïdis et al 2015, Stoler 2013). As such, counter-narratives of national memory in post-imperial nations may enact memory as decoloniality. Drawing from decolonial and po ...

NUBS 2.10 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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This panel takes as its object the nature and contestation of colonial memory. Drawing from a range of European case studies (Romania, Germany, France, and Britain), the four presentations will examine how narratives of national memory exemplify the coloniality of memory in societies which carry the afterlives of oppressive histories, including post-imperial societies. The presentations consider, in particular, how state institutions, including schooling and national heritage, produce unbelonging, silence, and invisibility in pursuit of a cohesive national memory. Within this context, we turn to the radical, decolonial possibility of memory activism, in former metropoles and former colonies alike. Case studies will include a memorial site and museum of slavery in Barbados, performances by Afro-European artists, and walking tours highlighting German colonial history. These interventions hold the potential to decolonise memory in practice and theory alike. In that vein, we will reflect on the emergence of postcolonial memory cultures, alongside the promise and pitfalls of memory as decoloniality.



Meghan Tinsley

Memory as Coloniality and Decoloniality

European colonialism is an epistemic project, in which collective memory plays a crucial role. Memory creates linear histories and consolidates cohesive identities, whilst erasing difficult or marginalised histories and creating historical Others (Nora 1992[1984], Olick 2007, Ward 2015). Memory, however, is also never singular: the dominant narrative of the past constantly interacts with, and is contested by, grassroots counter-narratives (Nicolaïdis et al 2015, Stoler 2013). As such, counter-narratives of national memory in post-imperial nations may enact memory as decoloniality. Drawing from decolonial and postcolonial theory, queer theory, and the sociology of memory, I argue that this process plays out in three ways. First, it entails delinking from official narratives of the past (Rhodes Must Fall Oxford 2018). Second, it involves mourning ungrievable lives (Butler 2016) and a melancholic reiteration of the unsettled past (Muñoz 2006, Tinsley 2022). Third, it writes new narratives and invents new traditions, replacing monumental history with a pluriverse of fragmented memories (Mignolo 2018). This paper engages with three cases of memory as decoloniality: the non-participation of many British Muslims in the official rituals of Remembrance Day; the decapitated, bloodied, and toppled statue of Joséphine de Beauharnais in Fort-de-France, Martinique; and the planned Barbados Heritage District, a memorial site and museum of slavery. I conclude by reflecting on the implications of remembrance for larger political and cultural processes of decolonization.


Stéphanie Meylon-Reinette

From Performing to Decaying Territorial Bodies: A France/Germany Comparative Study of Coloniality and Decolonising Patterns

There will be much to cover and uncover in this paper whose focus will be twofold per se as two national territories are screened. This methodological approach is a new attempt at deciphering the inadequate institutional response of the French Nation unconfronting its colonial history translating any attempts of decolonizing into backlash political movements. The German coloniality is a relevant case as its de/colonial history and pattern is in many ways antagonistical to the French one (with regards to duration of the colonization period, and memorializing campaigns), but also because both countries have seen their histories intertwined.
As a performer and sociologist, I would propose in this paper to analyse the French and German national and colonized territories. Firstly, will be scrutinized the places of coloniality and trauma memorialization in both France and Germany. As for the colonized bodies, our field investigation will be the Black territorial bodies, performing and Decaying, artists and deaths, in order to highlight another memory, epigenetically ingrained in the bodies and lands marked and scathed by the enslavement and colonization. To do so, Afro-European artist's arts will be explored as well as the places of their ancestors sepultures which, in their own ways, perform an imposed decoloniality.


Simina Dragoș

State Education as a Site of Coloniality of Memory in Post 1989 Romania

I argue that the Romanian national history curriculum (re)produces coloniality of memory, leading to the racialisation of Roma people living in Romania or with ties to Romania. My definition of coloniality of memory draws on Boatcă (2021), who uses this concept in the context of defining Europe and Europeanness to describe the unequal dynamics between states and regions resulting from European colonialism. I expand this work, arguing that the same logic of coloniality which produces hierarchies of human life and divisions of labour can be identified between different groups in the same state or space in this context, coloniality works through racialisation. I thus define the coloniality of memory as a mechanism of systematic erasure of identity, experience and history of oppressed peoples. The coloniality of memory describes techniques of systematic and systemic silencing and invisibilisation, reproducing hierarchies of worth, importance and legitimacy. Given these theoretical considerations, I argue that the Romanian state can define itself as a Romanian ethnic nation state because of the coloniality of memory. The coloniality of memory works to erase the existence in, and contribution to, the Romanian state of minority groups, notably Roma, from mainstream collective memory. I understand state sanctioned knowledge through schooling to be a key mechanism, and the classroom a key site, for the formation of hegemonic collective memory (see Paulson, 2015; Paulson et al., 2020). Thus, my argument is based on a critical discourse analysis (see Van Dijk, 1993) of: 1) national curriculum for the subject 'The History of Romanians'; 2) government guidance for history teachers, and 3) national exam questions for the subject 'The History of Romanians'. The analysis indicates that racialised hierarchies can be legitimised through hegemonic collective memory, but also enacted in the domain of collective memory. This is how the coloniality of memory reinforces the coloniality of being (Maldonado Torres, 2007). Overall, my contention is that the coherence of the Romanian state rests on the coloniality of memory, achieved partly through education as a space of state-led collective memory.


Johanna Kreft

Tracing the decoloniality and coloniality of memory in activist walking tours in Germany

There is a vast network of civil society initiatives in Germany working to encourage critical engagement with and critical collective memory of Germany's colonial past within public and institutional spaces. This network has been growing steadily since the 1980s proactively generating relevant debates, however, they remain overlooked in many accounts on postcolonial remembering in Germany.
Postcolonial and decolonial walking tours are one integral part of the work of many initiatives. During these tours, the public are invited on a walk to discuss local traces of coloniality in their surroundings, as well as colonial legacies of contemporary society. This paper will examine who is hosting these walks and with what intentions, outline how they seek to bring the colonial past into the present to make it visible and tangible for attendees, and analyse how initiatives employ these walks as an activist methodology to generate counter-memories about German colonialism. Furthermore, this paper will investigate how activists attempt to situate these walks as a decolonial means of memory activism, as well as discuss some of the ways in which coloniality remains a persistent and palpable challenge within these walks as memory activism methodology. It will query whose perspectives are visible during these walks, who the walks are for, and who remains on the margins.
This paper will summarise the outcomes of qualitative interviews conducted with activist initiatives hosting these walks, as part of a PhD project studying transformative social activism in German postcolonial memory cultures.

Lecturer in Sociology
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University of Manchester
Dr, Independent scholar
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Independent Scholar
PhD Candidate
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University of Cambridge
Doctoral student
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University of Birmingham
Postdoctoral researcher
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Humboldt University Berlin
Research Associate
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Leipzig University
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