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Children of Empires and European Postmemories

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - MEMOIRS (Children of Empires and European Postmemories)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-04-30

MEMOIRS Children of Empires and European Post memories is a project on the diversity of Europe and its main objective is to understand the challenges of living in post-colonial Europe.
Portuguese, French and Belgian societies are shaped by their colonial heritage and the migratory waves associated with it. The end of the colonial empires triggered important population flows that brought large numbers of both the former colonised and colonisers to Europe, a process often marked by ambiguities, fractures and violence. MEMOIRS focuses on the intergenerational memories of the children and grandchildren of those who lived through the dying days of colonialism, the struggles for independence and the decolonization process of the following former colonies of Belgium, France and Portugal: Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC), Algeria, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe. MEMOIRS studies the integration of the colonial experience into the different national narratives exploring the concepts of memory and postmemory. More specifically, MEMOIRS uses a comparative approach to see how this traumatic past persists to this day and resonates into the current forms of differentiation and exclusion.

The innovative character of the project arises from its fundamental research questions, never asked on a European scale:
-How does the transferred intergenerational memory of the process of European colonialism and decolonization manifest itself socially and culturally in France, Belgium and Portugal?
-What is the impact of that latent memory on modern-day Europe?

MEMOIRS aims to draw a comprehensive answer to its research questions through a series of interviews with second and third-generation descendants of former colonizers, former colonized and colonial-war veterans living in France, Belgium and Portugal, and through a review and analysis of their cultural and artistic contribution in five areas: visual arts, literature, comics, performative arts and cinema.

Key concepts underpinning the project are memory; intergenerational memory transfer and postmemory. The latter helps us to comprehend the specific structure of the formers. It points to a relation to the past mediated by both historical knowledge and a strong subjective investment manifest in family narratives in which the imagination of a non-experienced past becomes the privileged ground for identity construction and intercultural role-playing both within Europe and on North South axis. Thus MEMOIRS interrogates Europe's postcolonial heritage by offering new insights into the European postcolonial collective memory and history, which is apparently a common history but one that generates very different memories.

The output is planned on different levels, with an impact beyond the academy, particularly in the political and cultural realms. An artistic database on the French, Belgian and Portuguese artistic postmemories will be made available, and one final art exhibition will be presented in the three countries involved. MEMOIRS results will demonstrate the importance of the social sciences and humanities in the study of human relationships and in the search for solutions to the impediments on political success and social cohesion in contemporary European societies.
MEMOIRS started with the PI’s priority focused on building the team, and in creating MEMOIRS ID which was crucial to launch its research challenging proposal broadly, within academic, social and cultural publics and agents. Early on, MEMOIRS defined its consulting team, internal and external advisory board, and invited Associate Researchers to integrate the team at CES. A. Three senior associated researchers to Memoirs act as permanent internal Advisory Board working closely to the PI and her team, participating regularly in team meetings: A. Sousa Ribeiro (CES, University of Coimbra), P. Medeiros (University of Warwick), and R. Vecchi (University of Bologna). B. Three consultants are involved as an external Advisory Board: Ana de Medeiros (King’s College London), Graça dos Santos (University of Paris Nanterre) and Phillip Rothwell (Oxford University). A mid-term evaluation meeting is being planned for the second half of march 2019. C. Five international consultants accepted PI’s invitation to participate in MEMOIRS: Eduardo Lourenço (Emeritus Professor, Gulbenkian Foundation), Helder Macedo (Emeritus Professor, King’s College London), Luandino Vieira (Angolan writer and cultural agent), Francisco Bethencourt (King’s College London), and Jean-Claude Kangomba (Literature Archives and Museum, Brussels).
The second and third stages focused on methodologies definition and data gathering, being that fieldwork is currently closing up.

-Stage 1: ID and project dissemination
These are two crucial elements to reach academic, institutional and social communities eventually involved in the project. Due to the scope of MEMOIRS, its large scale and potentially different receptions, the project invested time and resources on the creation of its ID. All the materials were carefully produced bearing in mind different publics and languages. The materials revealed to be essential for the dissemination of a solid and scientifically committed image of the project, the team and the host institution.
1. Project Launch
MEMOIRS was officially launched in Portugal in November 2016, in two special events: Maria Matos Municipal Theatre, Lisbon; and PortoPostDoc Cinema Festival, Porto. The PI went to several international fora to present and discuss the project: Belgium (Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren/ Mémoires du Congo/ Bozar), France (University Paris-Ouest-Nanterre-La Défense), Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony (Portuguese Cultural Centre, Camões, Maputo; UniZambeze, Beira), Chile (University of Santiago), Colombia (University of Los Andes, Bogotá).
2. Academic dissemination
During this first 30-month period, MEMOIRS organized or participated in 83 national and international events (65 academic events and 18 science-in-society initiatives). Of these, we highlight: Annual MEMOIRS Conference in the University of Oxford (King John II Chair, St. Peter’s College), Summer Course Along and Against the Archival Grain with Ann Laura Stoler (Lisbon, June 2018); MEMOIRS Panel in the 2nd Annual Conference of the Memory Studies Association (Copenhagen, Denmark, December 2017), MEMOIRS panel in the 12th German Lusitanists Conference at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (Germany, September 2017), two papers in AfroEuropeans Network Conference (Tampere, Finland, July 2017), and a conference by Benjamin Stora, in Lisbon, February 2017.

Stage 2: theoretical and methodological framing
A. Internal Seminars, 2016/2017
The main goal of the internal seminars was to start framing the theoretical, contextual and methodological approach of MEMOIRS. The initial seminars, discussed by the historians in the team, envisaged Research Stream “Contexts”; a set of seminars addressed Research Stream “Texts”, including methodological discussion, fieldwork planning and cultural programming; and in two seminars MEMOIRS team discussed core “Concepts” such as representation of violence, memory, postmemory and heritage. The success of this kind of team work and intense theoretical discussion has led the PI to decide to resume this activity after September 2018, with the end of fieldwork. In the first half of 2017, a number of internal seminars was organized with invited colleagues from different institutions and projects that discussed MEMOIRS topic from their own perspective. The main result was a map of MEMOIRS themes in Portuguese academia and beyond, the collaboration of MEMOIRS team with Atlas Estórias: Portugal_África team (New Univ. Lisbon), a digital platform built with the participation of common citizens that share their memories of the end of empires, and the collaboration with the ERC Action CROME – Crossed Memories, Politics of Silence: The Colonial/ Liberation Wars in Postcolonial Times (CES/Coimbra).
B. Fieldwork planning
Discussions in the internal seminars and follow-up work led to the definition of structural methodological tools by December 2016:
a. The Fieldwork Manual set the selection criteria from the universe targeted by MEMOIRS, the methodological procedures, and practical issues.
b. Methods and tools: semi-structured interview scripts for Groups A (“descendants of war”) & B (“descendants of civil settlers”); script for artists and script for common citizens. Templates for interview reports and biographical factsheet. Ethical tools: informed consent form, info sheet and MEMOIRS flyer.
c. Contacts: list of individual contacts or contacts of associations, artists and institutions.
d. Cultural representations: definition of the artistic areas and their coordination (Visual Arts, Performative Arts, Literature, Comics, and Cinema) and the definition of the selection criteria (date of birth of the author, date of the work piece, intensity with which their works manifest the phenomena under study). Definition of the database structure. During this stage, team has finished data collection in the 5 areas, for Belgium, Portugal and France. Currently, the PI is planning to finish database revision on representations of postmemory by the end of 2018.

Stage 3: fieldwork in three countries
For approximately one and a half years, the PI and her team developed intense fieldwork in Portugal (mainly Lisbon), Belgium (mainly Brussels), and France (Paris, Marseille and Nice), gathering pioneering data with the descendant generation of those who lived through the end of empires, both building an artistic database and gathering personal and artistic narratives. A total of 124 interviews to ordinary citizens and artists were conducted across the three countries under study. Over 50 cultural events and artistic acts in the three national contexts were observed and registered.
In April 2018, MEMOIRS has concluded fieldwork in Portugal and is planning to conclude fieldwork in Belgium by July 2018, and France by October 2018.

Main results
A. Publications
By April 2018, MEMOIRS published one collective book, 8 articles, 15 book chapters, 7 book reviews, and a journal special issue. Also, its team has collaborated in the platform ATLAS with 8 dictionary entries, and has published 14 essays in MEMOIRS newsletter, launched in May 2018. We highlight the following publications for their scientific quality and impact:
- António Sousa Ribeiro, Margarida Calafate Ribeiro (Ed.), (2016) Geometrias da Memória: configurações pós-coloniais, Porto: Afrontamento. First volume in the series “MEMOIRS – Children of Empires/ Afrontamento”
-Fabrice Schurmans and Margarida Calafate Ribeiro, org. special issue “Ler na fronteira. As Literaturas Africanas de língua portuguesa em perspetiva comparada”, E- Cadernos, 2016 (
- On 5 May 2018, MEMOIRS Newsletter was launched, a weekly publication featuring essays, opinion texts, reviews by team members and other collaborators, that dialogue with imaged by collaborating artists. As we submit this report, it counts with 12 numbers available at By the end of the project we expect to have 122 numbers available. MEMOIRS Newsletter is published every Saturday in Portuguese and in English.

B. Artistic impact and cultural programming
MEMOIRS scientific plan and proposal have not suffered any changes via-a-vis DoA. On the contrary, our research is showing MEMOIRS perfect timing and its political relevance and urgency. MEMOIRS team is following the ongoing intense media debate in the three countries revolving around the memorialization and memory politics of colonial heritage in European public space. In the last 12 months, the debate on European colonial heritages (e.g. museums, restitution, recognition of historical decolonization as moment of war and human rights breaches by the different states, history teaching, etc.) has been swamping the public space, and leading to political decisions and actions (e.g. Audin case). In addition, the cultural milieu in the three countries is currently experiencing an intense development in artistic production on the memories and heritages of empires. In this context, arts are a growing field in MEMOIRS. MEMOIRS has been gathering great attention from artists and cultural agents who recognise in this project topic contemporary relevance and scientific novelty. All artists contacted by MEMOIRS have made a strong point that this is the first time they are being addressed from this scientific and transnational scope. As such, arts have become a focal point in discussing European postmemory of the end of empires, as visual, performative arts, cinema (building often on pioneering literary works) and literature show a growing and highly innovative interpellation of European postcolonial identities. António Pinto Ribeiro (researcher and cultural programmer) has been doing the artistic production. For the time being, MEMOIRS is planning actions with the artistic milieu and one final artistic exhibition.
This ambition has been supported by MEMOIRS rigorous ID and dissemination strategy, and is reflected in a series of institutional partnerships and networks. MEMOIRS partners show a great variety of institutions, both geographically, scientifically, institutionally and culturally.
- Bozar, Brussels
- Afropolitan Arts Festival, Brussels
- Mémoires du Congo, Terverun, Belgium
- Café Congo Cultural Centre
- The Royal Museum for Central Africa, Terverun
- University of Paris-Ouest- Nanterre- La Défense
- CREPAL, Research Group – University of Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle
- King John II Chair, St. Peter´s College, University of Oxford
-Eduardo Lourenço Chair, University of Bologna
-Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Paris and London
- Camões I.P. (Portuguese Foreign Affairs)
-PORTO/POST/DOC, Cinema Festival, Porto. This collaboration has translated into MEMOIRS being the inspiration for the 2017 edition: Postmemory and Archive.
-Maria Matos, Municipal Theatre, Lisbon
-Tchiweka Cultural Association, Luanda, Angola
-Iverca Cultural Association, Maputo, Mozambique

C. Database European Post-memories of Children of Empires
This will be one of MEMOIRS most innovative outputs. It is being built to work as a new archive to become available in Green Open Access for academic, cultural and educative use. It will work both as a cultural and social display of artistic postmemories on the end of empires, but also as a postmemory mural of the end of European overseas empires, a pioneer and fundamental archive on contemporary arts in five areas (visual arts, performative arts, cinema, literature and comics) and a tool for common and advanced research.
In the contemporary discussion on European postcolonial situations, the dimension of memory and postmemory has acquired increased political relevance. The pressure put by migration on Europe, the descendants of African diasporas and its affirmation in European countries, the discussion on how to deal with an African, Asian and Latin American colonial past in European museums, school curricula, media and the emergence of new and cosmopolitan artistic expressions, present strong questions, that demand strong and new answers from academic and non-academic communities in Europe and in the world.

MEMOIRS is the first study that compares the personal and artistic narratives of 2nd and 3rd generation in Europe on the end of Belgian, French and Portuguese empires, focusing on the cases of Algeria, Congo, and the Portuguese former African colonies. In addition to individual interviews, MEMOIRS is collecting and treating 2nd and 3rd generation artistic production on the topic. The fact that the project is carried out in three European countries, in five different artistic areas gives MEMOIRS the opportunity to draw a new cartography of art on MEMOIRS themes in Europe in a specialized (country/area), comprehensive (all areas in one country) and comparative (by area/3 countries, in all areas in the 3 European countries) way. This research design generates a new, unique and pioneering approach and knowledge, which we consider of scientific, social, political and aesthetic usefulness.

The political events and cultural discussions of the last years and fieldwork - with academic communities and artists who are sensitive to these themes - showed the relevance of MEMOIRS knowledge as an important tool to promote informed and democratic participation. During fieldwork and in MEMOIRS dissemination events, researchers receive the unequivocal feedback from participants that this is the first time they are being challenged as “Children of Empires”. Whereas their older relatives used to be called in to give their testimony, now MEMOIRS is challenging the descendants to think about the colonial heritage in postcolonial times. In this process, we have become aware that the interviews we carry out are not just occasions of data collection for a project. They are instances of historical awareness of the interviewees as European social and political subjects and if and how their representative family history is integrated into the history of their country and Europe. For the artists these interviews are also moments of critical reflection, sharing and creation. From these works new perspectives are made on the significance of colonial encounters for the framing of postcolonial Europe's self-awareness arise in a shared and participatory way.

The cultural and political importance of MEMOIRS work on such sensitive, politically dense, and ethically demanding themes gives MEMOIRS a pioneering role in the connection between the academy and artistic communities. The urgency and ambition to share such knowledge with the general public has made the PI to reconsider the scope of two of the planned outputs: the database and the final art exhibition, in Lisbon, Brussels and Paris.

DATABASE “European Post-memories of Children of Empires”
This database will constitute a major output of the project since its main scope is to map, store and provide to the public a mural of postmemory artistic representations of Portugal, France and Belgium in 5 fields: Literature, Cinema, Comics, Performing Arts and Visual Arts. It is the first collection, systematization, and analysis tool concerning the post-memory art of these 3 European countries.
The MEMOIRS database will be treated in order to be released in Green Open Access by the end of the project, gathering not only information on art pieces registered but also critical essays and contextualization on the author and its production.

ART EXHIBITION Beyond Postcolonial Europe – postmemory and representations
A final art exhibition on the postmemory of European Empires is under planning by MEMOIRS Senior Researcher and cultural programmer António Pinto Ribeiro.
While offering a comparative intra-European perspective, MEMOIRS will open up new perspectives on the significance of colonial encounters for the framing of postcolonial Europe's self-awareness. The methodology adopted will contribute to results that allow for a new understanding of Europe, and for the elaboration of a more inclusive, while realistic, European discourse.