Colonialism on the Public Stage: Courts, Commissions and the Making of an ‘Official’ Colonial Memory

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Type: 
Call for Papers
Date: 
November 9, 2022
Location: 
Netherlands
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Black History / Studies, Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, Diplomacy and International Relations, World History / Studies

When? 9 November 2022

Where? Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences, NIAS
Korte Spinhuissteeg 3
1012 CG Amsterdam

Deadline for Abstracts?: 15 September 2022

Sent abstracts to decolonisationgroup@gmail.com

WHAT?

This workshop welcomes contributions from scholars working in history, legal studies, memory studies, anthropology, sociology, political science or other relevant fields. We hope that by bringing various disciplines into conversation with each other we can better understand the wide-ranging effects of official initiatives to come to terms with the colonial past.

We will seek to write a set of recommendations and conclusions about official memory and how to organize commissions to investigate the colonial past.

ORGANIZERS

  • ​The Decolonisation Group at the Centre for Global Challenges, Utrecht University
  • The Global and Imperial History Cluster at Utrecht University
  • The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Science

ABOUT

In recent years an increasing number of official commissions, court cases and government-sanctioned investigations have grappled with the uncomfortable histories of colonialism and decolonisation on the public stage. By directly addressing questions of responsibility for colonial violence, these initiatives have not only stimulated public debate. They have also, intentionally or unintentionally attempted to create an official memory of the colonial past. 

In Belgium a parliamentary commission was formed to investigate the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in 2001, an official investigation into the métis community and adoption in the colonial setting was created in 2018 and a commission to investigate the colonial past was set up in 2020. In the United Kingdom, in 2011, following a High Court case brought by four Kenyans involved in the Mau Mau rebellion, the government was forced to admit that 8,800 files had been secretly sent to Great Britain from colonies prior to their independence and were stored outside of the National Archives. In 2021 Germany recognised the atrocities of 1904-1908 as genocide and formally apologized to Namibia after five years of negotiations. In 2021 French president Emmanuel Macron announced plans to establish a ‘memories and truth’ commission to address the history of France’s colonial past in Algeria, but stopped short of issuing an official apology. In the Netherlands results from the project ‘Independence, decolonisation, violence and war in Indonesia, 1945-1950’ were presented in 2022 and met with admiration and criticism.

This workshop seeks to better understand the motivations, functions and impact of these initiatives and wants to explore their relationship to the history and memory of colonialism.

The goal of the workshop is to collectively formulate a set of recommendations about colonial invistigative commissions 

Two sets of questions will be explored.

First, we will seek to reflect on the potential and the limits of interdisciplinary. The relationship between history, law and memory studies will be the focus. The work of scholars such as Mark Osiel, Joachim Savelsberg and Ryan King on mass atrocities, collective memory and the law can provide the basis for discussions. Historical topics will also be debated. How do present-day European initiatives to create an official interpretation of the colonial past relate to the longer global history of trails, commissions and journalism such as the post-Apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa or Roger Casement’s denunciation of Leopold II’s Congo Free State in pamphlets and newspapers?

A second set of questions will hone in on the scholarship that official commissions create.  What does it mean to write history as part of an official investigation? To what extent can historians and other scholars fulfil the role of advisors and ‘expert witnesses’, and what is their relationship to the victims of colonial atrocities and/or their descendants? How can we understand academic freedom in the context of a government or legal investigation? What status does the scholarship that comes out of trials and parliamentary commissions have in the historiography? And how much authority does a ‘top down’ or ‘official’ version of colonial history hold amongst a wider public?

In short, both set of questions seeks to better understand the practices and implications of such public interventions on the formation of collective memory of colonialism and empire.

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

Keynote speakers for panel 1:

KEYNOTE: Sandra Manickam (Assistant Professor Erasmus School of History, Culture) (10-10:40 – 40 MIN) ‘official memory’ in British Malaya and present-day Malaysia and Singapore

COMMENTARY: Roel Frakking (Lecturer in History, Utrecht University),. (10:40-11h – 20 MIN), who was responsible for one of the regional studies which forms a part of the ‘Decolonisation, Violence and War in Indonesia, 1945-1950’ research.

 

Keynote speakers for panel 2:

KEYNOTE:  Gillian Mathys (Postdoctoral Researcher, Ghent University) and Speaker 2 (still needs to confirm), members of the Special Commission on the Colonial Past, Belgium. (14-14:40 – 40 MIN)

COMMENTARY: Simon Nsielanga Tukumu (PhD. Researcher in History, KULeuven), analyses decolonization discourses and practices within the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in Congo/Zaire, 1960-2000. (14:40-15h – 20 MIN)

 

PROGRAM

Number of participants: 24 (please register!)

9h00 Arrival

9h30 OPENING OF THE WORKSHOP

PART I  COLONIALISM IN ASIA 10:00-13h (3h)

KEYNOTE 1:  Sandra Manickam (Assistant Professor Erasmus School of History, Culture) (10-10:40 – 40 MIN) ‘official memory’ in British Malaya and present-day Malaysia and Singapore

COMMENTARY 1: Roel Frakking (Lecturer in History, Utrecht University),. (10:40-11h – 20 MIN), who was responsible for one of the regional studies which forms a part of the ‘Decolonisation, Violence and War in Indonesia, 1945-1950’ research.

 

DISCUSSION (11h-11h30 – 30 MIN)

 

BREAK (11h30-12h – 30 MIN)

 

PANEL 1 (12h-13h): THE MAKING OF OFFICIAL MEMORY – DIVERSE PAPERS

Discussant

Paper 1 (15 MIN)

Paper 2 (15 MIN)

Paper 3 (15 MIN)

DISCUSSION (15 MIN)

 

LUNCH (13h-14h - 1 HOUR)

 

PART II COLONIALISM IN AFRICA 14h-17h (3h)

KEYNOTE 2:  Gillian Mathys (Postdoctoral Researcher, Ghent University) and  speaker 2 (still to be confirmed), members of the Special Commission on the Colonial Past, Belgium. (14-14:40 – 40 MIN)

COMMENTARY 1: Simon Nsielanga Tukumu (PhD. Researcher in History, KULeuven), analyses decolonization discourses and practices within the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in Congo/Zaire, 1960-2000. (14:40-15h – 20 MIN)

DISCUSSION (15h-15h30 – 30 MIN)

BREAK (15h30-16h – 30 MIN)

PANEL 2 (16h-17h): THE MAKING OF OFFICIAL MEMORY – DIVERSE PAPERS

Discussant: Member of the Global and Imperial Relations Cluster

Paper 1 (15 MIN)

Paper 2 (15 MIN)

Paper 3 (15 MIN)

DISCUSSION (15 MIN)

 

PART III 19h-21h DINNER IN AMSTERDAM

 

 

Contact Info: 

For more information contact decolonisationgroup@gmail.com and f.p.l.gerits@uu.nl. You can also contact members of the organising committee directly: Britta Schilling, Roel Frakking, Peter Malcontent and Frank Gerits (all at Utrecht University).

E-mail a paper proposal + a short CV to decolonisationgroup@gmail.com with the subject line "Colonialism on the Public Stage".

Visit our websites: www.decolonisationgroup.com and https://www.uu.nl/en/research/history-of-international-relations/researc...

THIS WORKSHOP WAS FUNDED BY THE UU CENTRE FOR GLOBAL CHALLENGES AND THE NIAS

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