Remembering the Violence of (De)colonization in Southern Africa: From Witnessing to Activist Genealogies in Literature and Film

Ksenia Robbe*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The histories of Southern African postcolonies which experienced decolonization and political transition during the 1980s and early 1990s are deeply entangled, creating the potential for transnational regional remembrance. However, memories of these periods that celebrate liberation and the formation of postcolonial states have largely been instrumentalized within nationalist imaginaries. Turning to the practices of literature and film in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, this chapter asks whether we can trace alternative regional memoryscapes that encompass reflections on the violence of decolonization as well as the continuing coloniality, thus involving critiques of mainstream memorialization. The reading engages with critical memory in the novels published at the turn of the millennium and by the authors of the younger, “born free” generation, during the late 2010s. It traces the dynamics of mnemonic frameworks through which the shared historical experiences of colonial and apartheid violence, decolonization and the post-conflict present are mediated. This dynamic involves a shift from practices of witnessing and testifying to the violence of decolonization towards more recent articulations of memory that create activist genealogies of tackling coloniality across the periods of resisting colonialism, anti-apartheid struggle, and the contemporary critique of post-transitional/post-independence politics which are tied in with protest movements. The recent productions create frameworks of embodied (post)memory that focus on structural violence and its longue durée in the postcolony, representing the traumas of decolonization as traumas of coloniality—of the past relations that reproduce themselves in the present. These structures of timelessness, however, also involve a hopeful dimension: they evoke inspiring stories, un-forgetting, and passing on.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRegions of Memory
Subtitle of host publicationTransnational Formations
EditorsJeffrey Olick, Simon Lewis, Malgorzata Pakier, Joanna Wawrzyniak
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-93705-8
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-93704-1, 978-3-030-93706-5
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2022

Publication series

NameMemory Studies
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISSN (Print)2634-6257
ISSN (Electronic)2634-6265

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