When Georges Balandier published “The Colonial Situation” in 1951, colonial empires were at the heart of profound debates and struggles. By the 1970s, colonialism had been banished from the realm of legitimate forms of political organization. What remained “colonial” in world politics passed itself off as something else. The burst of scholarship on colonial societies in the 1980s and 1990s thus appears paradoxical, and so too does the lack of response and follow-up to Balandier’s brilliantly incisive article in the two decades after its appearance.
The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Colonial Studies, 1951-2001
German Television and Colonialism
Over the last decade, an increasing number of documentaries and fictional films broadcast on German television has established an image of German colonialism that claims to be informed by postcolonial criticism but, as I argue in this article, often resembles the image created by colonialism itself. Das Weltreich der Deutschen (The Global German Empire, 2010), a documentation produced by Guido Knopp, serves as an example for the close connection between practices of representation and colonial fantasies, and demonstrates how the combination of entertainment and education obscures the fact that colonialism has been not only a practice of political domination and economical exploitation, but also a practice of representation.
Making Object Biographies
Margareta von Oswald and Verena Rodatus
In Germany, the new cultural center Humboldt Forum (to open in 2019) has become a major site of debate. It will include the contested collections of both the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art, which contributed to the negotiation of the role of colonial legacies and their reverberances on contemporary Germany. We took those contestations as a point of departure for the exhibition Object Biographies (2015), part of the program Humboldt Lab Dahlem designed to experiment with innovative displays for the Humboldt Forum. Here we reexamine our research collaboration with the Beninese art historian Romuald Tchibozo that was part of the exhibition. His call for the “decolonization of research” was the central guideline in our museum practice aiming for cosmo-optimistic futures. We argue that focusing on processes and questions engaged by the exhibition project can transform contested museum spaces to enable negotiations on ownership, representation, and memory politics.
Giuliana Chamedes and Elizabeth A. Foster
Scholarly attention to decolonization in the French Empire and beyond has largely focused on the political transitions from colonies to nation-states. This introduction, and the essays in this special issue, present new ways of looking at decolonization by examining how religious communities and institutions imagined and experienced the end of French Empire. This approach adds valuable perspectives obscured by historiographical emphasis on French republican secularism and on the workings of the colonial state. Bringing together histories of religion and decolonization sheds new light on the late colonial period and the early successor states of the French empire. It also points to the importance of international institutions and transnational religious communities in the transitions at the end of empire.
This article analyzes how the fundamental challenge of decolonization has resonated in history textbooks published in France since the 1960s. It therefore contextualizes textbook knowledge within different areas of society and focuses on predominant discourses that influenced history textbooks' (post)colonial representations in the period examined. These discourses encompass the crisis of Western civilization, modernization, republican integration, and the postcolonial politics of memory. The author argues that history textbooks have thus become media, as well as objects of an emerging postcolonial politics of memory that involves intense conflicts over immigration and national identity and challenges France's (post)colonial legacy in general.