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Colonial Memory

Colonial Memory: Contemporary Women's Travel Writing in Britain and the Netherlands

Sarah De Mul
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 180
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  • Book Info
    Colonial Memory
    Book Description:

    Exploring the intersections between memory, gender and the postcolonial, Colonial Memory starts with the observation of a widespread cultural recall of colonial scenes and topics, a compulsion to return to the colonies that follows the belatedness of the postcolonial moment. Focusing on Britain and the Netherlands, the author explores the phenomenon of colonial memory through the specific genre of women's travel writing. De Mul criticizes postcolonial studies for its tendency to engage with general and abstract allegories of self and other, which she seeks to substitute with historicized accounts of the cultural frames that shape the contacts between Britain and the Netherlands and their respective (former) colonies, both in the past and the present.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1385-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction ‘Yesterday does not go by’
    (pp. 9-16)

    Gisteren gaat niet voorbij(Yesterday does not go by) is the title of a novel written in 1973 by the Dutch female author Aya Zikken.¹ Against the background of a reunion gathering, the plot centres around two Dutch ladies who recollect their colonial childhood. They were in the Dutch East Indies (colonial Indonesia) during the early twentieth century. Zikken has reworked memories of the Dutch East Indies in numerous literary works, such asDe atlasvlinder(1958),Raméh, verslag van een liefde(1968),Gisteren gaat niet voorbij(1973),Landing op Kalabahi(1996) andIndische jaren(2001).² She has also written a...

  2. Chapter 1 A trip down memory lane. Colonial memory in women’s travel writing
    (pp. 17-32)

    In the opening pages of Alexandra Fuller’sScribbling the Cat, the autobiographical protagonist recounts that her journeys in Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are motivated by a desire to return to the colonial past of these countries, specifically to the violent war which lead to the independence of Zimbabwe.¹ After a meeting in Zambia with a man called “K.”, a devout Christian with the murderous record of a white veteran Selous Scout during the independence war, Fuller asks ethical questions about her personal involvement in the war, which she experienced as the child of British settlers. Vastly different from Nietzsche’s hypothetical...

  3. Chapter 2 Women’s memory of Rhodesia, the Dutch East Indies and Dutch and British cultures of colonial remembrance
    (pp. 33-54)

    Since the second half of the nineteenth century, imperialism has not only been about conquest, invasion and domination, but increasingly became a thing of the mind. It is relevant, therefore, to study the Western systems of cognition and interpretation which Europe deployed in the process of its colonial expansion and in understanding the non-Western territories with which it came into contact. The force of these interpretative schemes is collective and incremental, and therefore, also the memory work of women travel authors cannot solely be considered as singular and aesthetic. Their travel texts and memories which will be the object of...

  4. Chapter 3 Nostalgic memory in Aya Zikken’s Terug naar de atlasvlinder
    (pp. 55-80)

    Aya Zikken’sTerug naar de atlasvlinder(Back to the Atlas Butterfly) (1981) recounts the author’s nostalgic search for the arcadian setting of her childhood in contemporary Indonesia.¹ In this chapter, I will interpret that search through a conceptualisation of the sublime, following Lyotard and Nancy, emphasising history’s loss. The return journey to the lost landscape of Zikken’s colonial youth is beset by endless delays and detours, while it is simultaneously indirectly invoked through intertextual, fictional, and imaginative allusions. Ignoring the contemporary life of Indonesia and Indonesians, Zikken ultimately finds again her pre-modern paradise – though not on Sumatra, where she...

  5. chapter 4 Indo postmemory in Marion Bloem’s Muggen Mensen Olifanten
    (pp. 81-102)

    Muggen Mensen Olifanten(1995) written by Marion Bloem is a collection of 57 travel narratives about journeys across the globe. It renders accounts of Africa, Latin America and the Unites States, but the emphasis is on South-East Asia, particularly on the Indonesian Archipelago. In these travel narratives, the autobiographical protagonist is described as an “Indo-Dutch” woman of the second generation, whose parents grew up in the Dutch East Indies and migrated around the time of Indonesia’s decolonisation to the Netherlands. Bloem’s journeys and perceptions of places and peoples of the Indonesian archipelago are in various ways informed by memories of...

  6. Chapter 5 Everyday memory in Doris Lessing’s African laughter. Four visits to Zimbabwe
    (pp. 103-122)

    Doris Lessing’sAfrican Laughteris the account of four journeys to Zimbabwe.¹ It presents transitions in everyday Zimbabwean life, which are mostly voiced by individual people’s recollections and observations. The autobiographical travelling protagonist, Doris Lessing, was born of British parents, spent her childhood on a large farm in Southern Rhodesia (colonial Zimbabwe) and first came to England in 1949. Declared a prohibited immigrant by the colony’s white government, Lessing was forbidden to return to Southern Rhodesia because of her anti-colonial ideas. Since the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, she has been allowed entrance again.African Laughterrecounts Doris Lessing’s four...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 123-130)

    This study was concerned with providing a wider historical and aesthetic sense of how colonial memory is effected, through which genres it is routed, and in whose interests it is deployed. Through an analysis of Aya Zikken’sTerug naar de atlasvlinder, Marion Bloem’sMuggen mensen olifantenand Doris Lessing’sAfrican Laughter, I have focused on colonial memory in women’s travel writing in relation to the specific historical contingencies of the contemporary Dutch and British cultures of colonial remembrance in which they circulate. Firmly anchored within the structures of language and storytelling, the notion of colonial memory deployed in this study...