The Coloniality and Decolonising of Memory NUBS 2.08
Jul 06, 2023 13:30 - 15:00(Europe/London)
20230706T1330 20230706T1500 Europe/London 7.3. Multifaceted Uses of Memory: Hegemonic, Silenced, and Instrumentalised Memory of Colonial Past and Present

The panel examines how different discourses of memory configure in authoritarian, conflict-torn, and post-conflict societies. Memory manifests and crystalises itself in numerous forms. We examine the uses of memory of colonial past, in cases: (1) when a narrative of colonial past is used as a foundation of resistance towards the settler-coloniser, (2) when a discourse of the imperialist past is used to launch an aggressive war with the aim to return the past glory, (3) when hegemonic actors instrumentalise memory to justify present-day discriminatory policies by drawing on the memory discourses imposed by colonial powers, (4) when the erasure of the memory of colonial displacement is used for state-building and later, border regulation purposes. Keeping different forms of how memory manifests itself in mind, we attempt to imagine what would decolonising memory discourses mean in difficult contexts.We examine the issues relating to memory and unaddressed colonial past, and particularly, how the present colonial or imperialist memory narratives (or nostalgia for the lost empire) lead to the repetition of colonial violence in more contemporary forms, in cases such as Russia's aggression of Ukraine, Turkey's Kurdish conflict, Syria's forced displacement, and government's instrumentalization of LGBTQ+ narratives on the African continent. The panel also examines whether postcolonial historical commissions, when presented as transitional justice and memorialisation paradigm, are well-equipped to deal with colonial violence.Colonial legacies, enshrined in the logic of state-building in the cases examined, contribute to perpetuating of conflict, cycles of forced displacement and the use of colonial discourse to streamline discriminatory policies. At the same time, we see that ...

NUBS 2.08 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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The panel examines how different discourses of memory configure in authoritarian, conflict-torn, and post-conflict societies. Memory manifests and crystalises itself in numerous forms. We examine the uses of memory of colonial past, in cases: (1) when a narrative of colonial past is used as a foundation of resistance towards the settler-coloniser, (2) when a discourse of the imperialist past is used to launch an aggressive war with the aim to return the past glory, (3) when hegemonic actors instrumentalise memory to justify present-day discriminatory policies by drawing on the memory discourses imposed by colonial powers, (4) when the erasure of the memory of colonial displacement is used for state-building and later, border regulation purposes. Keeping different forms of how memory manifests itself in mind, we attempt to imagine what would decolonising memory discourses mean in difficult contexts.

We examine the issues relating to memory and unaddressed colonial past, and particularly, how the present colonial or imperialist memory narratives (or nostalgia for the lost empire) lead to the repetition of colonial violence in more contemporary forms, in cases such as Russia's aggression of Ukraine, Turkey's Kurdish conflict, Syria's forced displacement, and government's instrumentalization of LGBTQ+ narratives on the African continent. The panel also examines whether postcolonial historical commissions, when presented as transitional justice and memorialisation paradigm, are well-equipped to deal with colonial violence.

Colonial legacies, enshrined in the logic of state-building in the cases examined, contribute to perpetuating of conflict, cycles of forced displacement and the use of colonial discourse to streamline discriminatory policies. At the same time, we see that the meagre existent mechanisms of working through the colonial past as postcolonial historical commissions fail to deliver what they promise in the so-called 'established democracies.' The panel aims to investigate how the memory of the colonial past affects present politics and whether the tools of memorialisation allow working through the difficult past to enable society to move forward.



Mariel Reiss

 Re-Framing Memories of LGBTQ+ Identities

Kenyan President-elect Ruto said in an interview (7.9.22) homosexuality/LGBTQ+ is a „non issue" for Kenyans. With this and similar statements recently and in the past, he dismisses the lived realities of LGBTQ+ Kenyans and joins into the discourse around the UnAfricanness of LGBTQ+ Africans, perpetuated by a distinct group of heads of state and government across the African continent. An alliance between politicians and evangelists fosters the narrative that homosexuality and transgender identities are a recent import from the West. This debate around the UnAfricanness of (African) LGBTQ+ persons erases histories and memories of African LGBTQ+ persons and identities, as their existence today is (re-)framed as western imports.
Perpetuating this harmful and deadly UnAfricanness narrative is a way of inciting hate speech, hate crimes and (even more) discriminatory legislation – such as "anti-homosexuality" bills which were introduced in Uganda, Nigeria, and Ghana. The whole debate and introduced legislation not only contributes to the erasure of LGBTQ+ Africans today, it also ignores pre-colonial non-hetero and non-cis gendered identities. The impact of the colonial anti-LGBTQ+ legacies (through laws, practices and norms) is herewith re-written as it is framed as „African culture" in retrospect. At the same time, heterosexuality and cis-genderedness are re-framed as truly African. The distortion of the histories and memories of colonial continuities and understandings of who is perpetuating neocoloniality/neocolonial behavior paves the way for (more) violence in the future (hate speech/hate crimes, legislation, police violence, etc.). The impact of these dynamics is severe on many levels and can be analyzed as an Afrodystopia for LGBTQ+ Africans.
The paper analyzes these narratives and erased memories of LGBTQ+/non-hetero/non-cis gendered African identities and draws a direct line to the justifications of violence in the (recent) past and today. The analysis relies on archiving and other forms of digital and analogous activism to counter these UnAfricanness narratives and conceptualizes them as an Afrofuturist counter practice to remember and commemorate the own past and making African LGBTQ+ identities visible.


Cira Palli Aspero

Reckoning with the Colonial Past: Are Historical Commissions Vehicles for Change?

In 2020 the Special Reporter Fabián Salvioli, proposed the introduction of memorialization processes as the fifth pillar of transitional justice; arguing that 'without the memory of the past, there can be no right to truth, justice, reparation, or guarantees of non recurrence' (1). But what does that mean when we think about the unaddressed colonial past? What is the role of memory, history and transitional justice in this juncture?

This paper takes a conceptual approach to this question to examine the suitability of transitional justice to address the legacies of colonial historical injustices and their enduring harm in the present by zooming in to the work of post colonial historical commissions. Although such commissions originated outside the field of transitional justice, they have increasingly been adopting its language and logic. This paradigm shift has been particularly noticeable within the newly established post colonial historical commissions (e.g. Belgium, the Nordic countries, and Victoria in Australia) which have systematically referred to the four pillars of transitional justice.

Taking into consideration post colonial historical commissions are increasingly being chosen as key step on a process of state redress of historical injustices, I will discuss about the ways in which such commissions, framed within the transitional justice paradigm, can contribute to addressing the legacies of the colonial past; as well as exploring their most striking shortcomings – that is, these risk becoming instruments to draw a line thru history and to finalise 'the colonial project rather than being part of a transformation and decolonization' (2). (1) Fabián Salvioli, "Memorialization Processes in the Context of Serious Violations of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law: The Fifth Pillar of Transitional Justice. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees Of," vol. 09155, 2020. (2) Hughes, "Instructive Past: Lessons from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples for the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools," 102.


Selbi Durdiyeva

Decolonising the Memory of the Soviet Past, Decolonising Russia's Present?

Over three decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia continues to pursue expansionist and imperialistic policies toward the former Soviet Republics, exemplified in Russia's heinous act of aggression and war in Ukraine. More commentators do not shy away to label Russia a colonial state. The glorification and instrumentalization of the Soviet past play a prominent role in both domestic and foreign policy of the Kremlin. The paper argues that Russia's colonial ambitions are rooted in nostalgia for the past, identification with the lost object (the Soviet Union, an empire), and inability to face the reality because of the absence of mourning and lack of 'working through' the past. Unprocessed dark pages of history result in the replaying of the same narratives, self-destructive tendencies, and the inability of a society to perceive incongruence of the state propaganda. The paper draws on memory politics in Russia, where memory politics and associated processes contribute, among else, to the decolonial agenda. It examines what decolonising the approaches to the Soviet past would do to decolonising Russia's present. Drawing on the concepts of melancholia and mourning, the paper outlines what relinquishing the lost object, acknowledgement of the crimes, and accepting an undistorted picture of the world would mean and how various approaches to memory can shape this pursuit. Memory politics, in turn, is used as an imaginary of a decolonial tool, whose premises and approaches also need to be decolonised and reimagined to amplify the agency of those whose voices remain marginalised by hegemonic memory narratives in Russia and about Russia.


Nisan Alıcı

Addressing the colonial violence in Turkey's Kurdish conflict

Turkey has been long identified characterised as suffering from social amnesia in terms of mass atrocities (Bakiner, 2013). There has never been an official, overarching transitional justice agenda to deal with past atrocities. The combination of state-sponsored amnesia and denial resulted in a deficiency of justice and reconciliation. Therefore, the legacy of state-sponsored human rights violations and war crimes still haunts the present. against this backdrop, this paper explores how transitional justice and memory work can address the legacy of colonial violence in Turkey's Kurdish conflict.

The Kurdish conflict has its roots in the history of the Turkish Republic, although the armed conflict started in 1984. The Turkish Republic was founded as a nation-state with the ambition to create a homogenous nation, which required the Turkification of all peoples living within the country's borders. Kurds were the largest non-Turkish ethnic group with a distinct identity. That led Turkish state politics to engage in structural efforts to assimilate Kurds, destroy their cultural identity, and employ physical violence toward the Kurdish population. The systemic denial of the Kurdish identity and the punitive approach toward Kurds' claims for rights gave rise to a national liberation discourse within the Kurdish political movement in the 1970s and 1980s, which identified the Kurds as a colonised people and Kurdistan as interstate and international colony. Despite the unprecedented 2013-2015 peace process that raised hopes for the end of the conflict, violence escalated again in the Kurdish region in 2015 and the peace process collapsed. In the current context, systematic and structural state violence in the Kurdish region, the ongoing criminalisation of the Kurdish identity, and the institutional and daily racism towards Kurds require a conceptualisation of the Kurdish conflict from a postcolonial and decolonial perspective. Accordingly, for a potential transitional justice framework and memory-related initiatives to meet the demands of those affected by state violence, it needs to adopt a decolonising perspective and start addressing the colonial violence at the heart of the Middle East's most prolonged armed conflict.


Roua Al Taweel

Transitional Justice, Presence and Syria's Forced Displacement

The current layout of the Levant or Greater Syria (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan) is shaped by arbitrary borders, determined by the Sykes-Picot Agreement, and the Balfour Declaration that instated the ongoing Israeli occupation in the region. Such an arrangement meant the entire, fairly short, life of Syria modern nation-state has been marked by numerous, almost continuous, internal and regional conflicts. Through the 'presence' paradigm, I examine the most recent forced displacement episode in Syria (2011-present) in relation to the wider historic mass displacement and dispossession in the Levant (and Iraq). In so doing, I aim to show forced displacement as an enduring injustice rooted in and maintained by the colonial periods and their inherited legacies in the rule of law and nation-building projects in the region. Consequently, I argue that attempts to confine Syria's 'refugee' crisis into an absent-past/present dichotomy only safeguard structural continuity of violence and hinder effective 'transition' and 'justice'. Alternatively, a transformative approach to transitional justice that explores aspects of direct and indirect accountability for displacement may offer a better understanding of Syria's multi-layered forced displacement, its dimensions, and political, legal and socioeconomic implications. 

Postdoctoral Researcher
,
Center for Conflict Studies. Philipps University Marburg
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
,
Human Rights Centre, Ghent University
Dr/Postdoctoral Fellow
,
Center for Conflict Studies, Philipps University Marburg
PhD Researcher
,
Ulster University
Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies
,
Center for Conflict Studies, Philipps University Marburg
PhD Candidate
,
Uni Marburg, Centre for Conflict Studies
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