“Cultural Memory” and Practices of Postcolonial Resistance in Francophone Africa

“Cultural Memory” and Practices of Postcolonial Resistance in Francophone Africa (May 20-21, 2022)

Julien Bobineau, Brigitte Burrichter, Franziska Meier
University of Würzburg
From - Until
31.08.2021 -
Julien Bobineau

This academic Workshop aims to broach the phenomenon of cultural memory of the resistance and the practices of postcolonial protest in the case of so-called „Françafrique“.

“Cultural Memory” and Practices of Postcolonial Resistance in Francophone Africa (May 20-21, 2022)

Decolonization, as we think of it today, is a protracted process which takes place simultaneously on the political, social, and cultural level. In the history of what is commonly called francophone literature, different stages have often been evoked, and cultures have been organized accordingly. Thus, by observing the Black Lives Matter movement and the increasing denunciations of Françafrique, one might correctly assert that this process has now reached a new level. And it is precisely on this level that the importance of certain social, economic, and cultural factors needs to be emphasized. These factors taken together mirror, accompany and catalyze decolonization.

The interdisciplinary Workshop hopes to analyze the particularities of the current phase in its sustained struggle that has been unfolding over a little more than half a century. The gist of the on-going debates about denial, misrepresentation and revisionism of Europe’s colonial past, debates that have become part of the public discourse during the Black Lives Matter movement, clearly indicates that the decolonization process is far from over, neither in Europe nor in the former colonies. However, these discussions are all too often limited to the “history of the victors” (Walter Benjamin) of colonization and the requisite acknowledgements of its misdeeds, whereas local resistance in the face of European imperialism is relegated to the background.

Conversely, iconic figures in the fight for freedom such as Patrice Lumumba and Kimpa Vita (DR Congo), Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso), Harry Nkumubla (Zambia) or Frantz Fanon (Martinique/Algeria), have taken hold, across the gamut, in the collective memory of the former African colonies. In this regard, it might be justified to talk about a “cultural memory of resistance” which, in alignment with Walter Benjamin’s materialist concept, seeks to deftly retrace the history of the victors from the perspective of the formerly colonized. Meanwhile, even after officially reaching independence between 1950 and 1960, political liberty and economic self-determination of several former African colonies have up to the present day been considerably hindered by the direct and/or indirect perpetuation of postcolonial relationships of dependance (the practices of Françafrique in France being one example).

The Workshop aims to broach – in its broadest sense – the phenomenon of cultural memory of the resistance and the practices of postcolonial protest in order to gain a deeper understanding of all forms (political, social and cultural) of cultural memory from the vantage point of the social sciences. These reflections will be guided by the following interdisciplinary questions: How is the “cultural memory of resistance” practiced in the political, social, and artistic (literature, music, art) spheres? Do national, regional, and sociolinguistic differences exist? What role does “cultural memory of the postcolonial resistance” play in European societies? Could migration have an impact on forms of commemoration in Europe?

The Workshop will take place on May 20-21, 2022 in Würrzburg and is conceived as a forum for academic exchange which invites researchers who focus on pertinent topics originating in all disciplines of the humanities and the social sciences. The working languages are French and English. The participation of researchers from the Global South and young researches is strongly encouraged. The deadline for submissions of written proposals (about 300 words + a biography) is October 31, 2021.

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