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Remembering (Post)Colonial Violence

Silence, Suffering & Reconciliation


19–20 June 2014

Conveners: Eva Bischoff (University of Trier/ Martin Buber Society of Friends, Hebrew University), Elizabeth Buettner (Universiteit van Amsterdam)
Venue: German Historical Institute London


“We exist in a violent and violated world, a world characterized by (…) the peaceful violence of historical dispossession, of racial, cultural, and economic subjugation and stigmatization”. With these words, the Native Hawaiian writer and intellectual Haunani-Kay Trask summarizes the legacy of colonial conquest and imperial rule. Her conclusion is shared by the majority of scholars analysing the history of European colonial expansion. Yet, the use of violence often did not end with obtaining political independence. Many societies of the Global South inherited a legacy of colonial and anti-colonial violence, which turned into postcolonial violence after the formation of independent nation states. How to deal with loss and displacement, the experiences of physical and sexualized violence by both victims and perpetrators alike, on the individual and the collective level? This is an urgent question in many societies of the Global South. Simultaneously, remembering colonial violence is also a crucial aspect of many political debates European countries today. Here, the question what constitutes the nation’s colonial legacy and how to commemorate it are closely intertwined with debates on immigration and national identities. As Paul Ricoeur has demonstrated, collective memory is constituted by both remembering and forgetting alike. Often, an ‘excess of memory’ goes hand in hand with an ‘excess of forgetting’. Taking up Ricoeur’s insights, this workshop will examine the relationship between silence and enunciation in constituting the collective memories of (post)colonial violence. It will explore questions such as: How do postcolonial societies cope with the experience of colonial and postcolonial violence? What role do collective silences play in the processes of remembrance and reconciliation? What are the relationships of power involved? What are the similarities and differences between European societies and the societies of the Global South?


Conference programme (PDF file)

Conference report (PDF file), published in: GHIL Bulletin 36 (2014), Vol 2