How is the colonial past negotiated, contested, reinvented, forgotten in our world? In what sense do colonial memories and imperial legacies shape today's self-understandings, both in Europe and in former colonised countries?
Colonial legacies are not only a concern for those countries that once had a colonial empire, but indeed for the whole of Europe, which has been shaped, both objectively and subjectively, by its colonial experience. Men (mostly) and women travelled from all over Europe to participate in the colonial experience as missionaries, traders, settlers, administrators, and so on. To be 'European' was, in the colonial world, a category defining status and prescribing relationships. This colonial past is present in our world in many ways. It is objectified in monuments, museums, buildings, but also in continuing flows of commodities and people; it is felt in political, intellectual, artistic life, and in the memories of those who somehow define themselves in relationship to the colonial moment. It informs the rhetoric and the categories through which Europeans deal with migrants from former colonised countries, define standards of good governance or conceive development projects, and through which people outside Europe look at European tourists, businessmen, politicians or anthropologists. In that sense, 'colonialism' is not something that is beyond us, a past to be left to historians, but is a central topic for anthropologists, both as scholars and citizens, not only because our discipline still has to reckon with its own colonial legacy, but because it is part of our present. Our plenary will ask, how do colonial legacies shape our daily life? How is the colonial past negotiated, contested, reinvented, forgotten in various forums from politics to museums to scholarly discourses? In what sense do colonial memories and imperial legacies shape today's self-understandings, both in Europe and in former colonial dependencies?