Skip to main content

Crossed Memories, Politics of Silence: The Colonial-Liberation Wars in Postcolonial Times

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CROME (Crossed Memories, Politics of Silence: The Colonial-Liberation Wars in Postcolonial Times)

Reporting period: 2018-08-01 to 2020-01-31

CROME’s main objective is to produce a history of the memory of the colonial-liberation wars fought by the Portuguese state and the pro-independence African movements. The key hypothesis is that wars, colonial legacies and anticolonial struggles have triggered memorialisation and silencing processes which have their own historicity, according to each country and social-political context.
Moored in the interdisciplinary field of Memory Studies, CROME is divided into two strands: the first looks at the role of states in mobilising, articulating and recognising the past; the second strand highlights the uses of the past and the dynamics between social and individual memories. The intersection of both strands will allow the analysis of the historical role that states, societies and individuals have played in terms of generating ‘strong memories’ and ‘weak memories’, and to identify how the memory of these major historical events have been historicised over the last forty years.
The project was designed to identify how the war has reverberated in distinct times and spaces but it will also look at the entanglements between the former metropolis, Portugal, and the former colonies - Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and S. Tomé and Príncipe. To build this analysis, CROME draws upon different sources - written, oral and visual - as well as combines different Instances and practices of memory production.
Three main challenges drive the project. The first challenge is that of re-thinking the colonial-liberation wars from both a diachronic and a comparative perspective. The second one refers to the operationalisation of the concept of ‘politics of silence’, understood as a set of political, social, discursive and subjective mechanisms which contribute to form selective representations of the past. Finally, CROME aims to examine the processes of memory historicisation and bring about conceptual frameworks able to analyse them.
The progress accomplished by CROME in 3 years reflects the dynamism of the research team and its ability to implement the planned research activities, the efficient support provided by the Host Institution and the cooperation granted by the group of academics and institutions with whom the project has established some kind of collaboration in Portugal but also in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe. In this regard, the effective partnerships established with colleagues and institutions of the countries where the research fieldworks take places has become so far one of the main achievements of the project. This fruitful cooperation has resulted, for instance, in the organization of several scientific events in those countries, and the shooting of a documentary in Guinea-Bissau.

These factors, together with the financial support and the scientific autonomy offered by the ERC funding scheme became possible the several outcomes that CROME has reached to date. To pursuit the goals proposed on its plan of activities, CROME counts with the dedication of a highly motived and competent research team. The nuclear team is composed by a group of 6 people working full-time: the PI plus 5 young scholars (3 post-doctoral researchers and 2 PhD Students). The team also include 2 Associate Researchers, who take part in the research and dissemination activities on a partial basis.
The recruitment of the team members before the actual beginning of the project enabled the settlement of the team in Coimbra and the start of the research activities from day one. The first months were devoted to theoretical consolidation, methodological training and project management activities related to the creation of the visual identity of the project. This included setting up a strategy and creating tools for the communication and dissemination of the work by the team. In particular, the project created a Facebook page account (facebook.com/crome.ces) to disseminate its activities and events and a website (crome.ces.uc.pt) which was launched in the end of the project’s first year. By the end of January 2020, the Face page had around 1200 friends and followers and only in 2019 website counted 10144 views.

The priority established for the first months was framing the theoretical, contextual and methodological boundaries of the project. While this work was taking place, an overview of the tasks and objectives to be addressed in the first place became clear. In February 2017, the project was presented in Europe and Africa, namely in the following events: 1) in Portugal, at the CROME-MEMOIRS Conference delivered by Benjamin Stora (Université Paris-XIII) at the Auditório CIUL in Lisboa, on 10 February 2017; 2) In Cape Verde, at the International Colloquium ‘War, Memory and Colonialism: History and Legacies’, co-organised by CROME and local partners, the Cátedra Amílcar Cabral and the Laboratório de Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais. This Colloquium was held at the Cátedra Amílcar Cabral, in Praia, on 23 and 24 February 2017. After this first mission to Cape Verde (February 2017), the researchers initiated the preparation of their first fieldwork missions to Africa, that took place during the Fall of 2017 (Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Angola). In the following year, the missions were extended to Cape Verde (March 2018) and to São Tomé and Príncipe (July 2018). The first fieldwork missions were an opportunity to identify and meet key actors and experts who may facilitate fieldwork development in the following years, to establish partnerships with local organizations and to collect data. Some exploratory interviews with local scholars, memory producers or former combatants were also conducted. The previous work experience and contacts that team members had with local scholars led to the organization of some events with local entities in the first period. The project took advantage of these opportunities to capitalize
CROME’s main challenge and conceptual innovation is to produce ground-breaking knowledge about the memories of the wars fought by the Portuguese state and pro-independence African movements between 1961 and 1974/5 from a diachronic perspective.
CROME will contribute to the ongoing conceptual and epistemological discussions in the interdisciplinary field of Memory Studies regarding the relationship between social and individual memories; memory and (inter)subjectivity; building war memories (and silencing processes); and the role played by tools such as social media in generating new historiographical sources. The contribution of the project in this matter is particularly relevant for advancing the field of memory studies in post-colonial societies. CROME’s ethnographic research and fieldwork have promoted the discussion, reconceptualization and enlargement of some theoretical frameworks and concepts such as ‘counter-memories’, ‘mnemohistory’, ‘mnemonic signifier’ and ‘memoryscape’. It has enriched the debates about memory in the public space and between space, memory and power. The preliminary findings of the research work carried out by the team are permanently subjected to internal discussion and revision. Moreover, the team members have participated in international conferences and academic fora and submitted papers to top ranking international journals. CROME’s outputs will include the organization of seminars, advanced training courses, and conferences, presentations of its findings in international and/or national conferences, as well as publications in different academic outlets.
A documentary film and an interactive website with audiovisual documents will also be produced to disseminate the results of the project and the research work carried out. Both products will gather shots of the interviews to be conducted during the project and will focus on how war memories are built against the diverse national backgrounds, assessing the intensity of both evocation and silencing and the role played by historical cleavages in remembering processes and in establishing what is said and unsaid, forgotten or celebrated, valued or belittled. A summer school aimed to young researchers who work in the field of Memory Studies, taught in English, is foreseen for the last year. The project shall conclude with the organization of an international conference, in order to present to the public the results obtained until the 5th and last year of the project.
Luanda, War Memorial
Book and roll up CROME
Project Logo
Bissau, Talhão da Liga dos Combatentes
Miguel Cardina, Principal Investigator