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Historical Memory in Africa

Historical Memory in Africa: Dealing with the Past, Reaching for the Future in an Intercultural Context

Mamadou Diawara
Bernard Lategan
Jörn Rüsen
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Historical Memory in Africa
    Book Description:

    A vast amount of literature-both scholarly and popular-now exists on the subject of historical memory, but there is remarkably little available that is written from an African perspective. This volume explores the inner dynamics of memory in all its variations, from its most destructive and divisive impact to its remarkable potential to heal and reconcile. It addresses issues on both the conceptual and the pragmatic level and its theoretical observations and reflections are informed by first-hand experiences and comparative reflections from a German, Indian, and Korean perspective. A new insight is the importance of the future dimension of memory and hence the need to develop the ability to 'remember with the future in mind'. Historical memory in an African context provides a rich kaleidoscope of the diverse experiences and perspectives-and yet there are recurring themes and similar conclusions, connecting it to a global dialogue to which it has much to contribute, but from which it also has much to receive.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-837-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Mamadou Diawara, Bernard Lategan and Jörn Rüsen

    This book is the outcome of an international research project jointly sponsored by the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) and the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Nordrhein-Westfalen (KWI) under the titleDealing with the Past, Reaching for the Future. It examines the ambiguous nature of historical memory during times of social upheaval and transformation, focusing on a variety of cases from a number of African countries to illustrate the multifaceted and diverging roles of historical memory in dealing with the past, interpreting the present and anticipating the future. While the focus is decidedly on Africa, the contributions are placed in an international...

  4. Part I. From an African Perspective

    • CHAPTER 1 Social Theory and Making Sense of Africa
      (pp. 13-26)
      Elísio Macamo

      The purpose of this chapter is to argue that social theory is a specific mode of making sense of the past, present and future. In order to do this, it relies on a special form of historical memory. The hypothesis is that African social reality becomes visible in the manner in which its experience by Africans is recollected. In this sense, this chapter will speak directly to the role of African intellectuals in theorizing such experience. The bulk of the argument will bear directly on a question that can be assumed to retrieve the empirical and the epistemological dimensions of...

    • CHAPTER 2 History by Word of Mouth: Linking Past and Present through Oral Memory
      (pp. 27-52)
      Annekie Joubert

      One of the most prevalent deficiencies of oral memory is its transient nature, that is, the forgetting that occurs continually with the passage of time and the increase in people’s age. The past seems to inevitably recede with the elapse of time and the occurrence of new experiences (Schacter 2001: 12–13). Experimental evidence gathered by scholars as early as Ebbinghaus in 1878 to Thompson in the 1990s indicates that ‘memory after a day was close to a verbatim record of specific events; memory after a week was closer to a generic description of what usually happens’ (Schacter 2001: 15)....

    • CHAPTER 3 Historical Memory and Representation of New Nations in Africa
      (pp. 53-66)
      Bogumil Jewsiewicki

      I will begin the following considerations on the relationship between memory and history in the public space of contemporary Africa by briefly reflecting on the relationship between discourse on the past and the international political context of reconfiguring the state and the nation.¹ Taking the role of consensual political construction (the work of citizens) into account – a role that the French nation has played since the French Revolution – Nora’s texts must be considered in the same manner as Renan’s, each being the realm of memory of the national sentiment of its time.² The political discourse on self-determination that...

    • CHAPTER 4 Memory, History and Historiography of Congo-Zaïre
      (pp. 67-87)
      Justin Bisanswa

      There might be different ways of rereading the history of Congo-Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi. When Belgian journalists raised the question of the misery of the Congolese people with Mobutu, the marshal replied, alluding to the five years of ‘chaos’ shortly after independence: ‘My people sing and dance. They enjoy peace.’ One can recall today how the Lendu and Hema in Upper Congo killed one another. Also consider a statement that became common among my former students in Bukavu: ‘I’ve learned that two days ago my father, my mother and all my brothers and sisters were killed by Rwandese soldiers.’ This...

    • CHAPTER 5 Remembering the Past, Reaching for the Future: Aspects of African Historical Memory in an International Context
      (pp. 88-103)
      Mamadou Diawara

      It has been almost a generation since Reinhart Koselleck provided us with the polemical bookVergangene Zukunft(1979)¹. Eleven years later, it was published in French asLe futur passé. The title of this chapter echoes that of Koselleck’s book, which, using anthropological terms, treats the pastasan ‘experience’ and the futureasa ‘horizon of expectation’. Koselleck (1990: 11) analyzes ‘a particular present’ and ‘its future becoming the past’. François Hartog (2003),² in his fine book devoted toRégimes d’historicité, challenges Koselleck’s rather mechanical and Eurocentric reflection. Hartog takes a different approach to the distinctions between present, past...

    • CHAPTER 6 Remembering Conflict: The Centenary Commemoration of the South African War of 1899–1902 as a Case Study
      (pp. 104-120)
      Albert Grundlingh

      The wider significance and potentially contradictory impact of memory in divided societies has not gone unnoticed in the literature: ‘Memory is a powerful tool in the quest for understanding, justice and knowledge. It raises consciousness. It heals some wounds, restores dignity, and prompts uprisings’ (Misztal 2003: 126). In South Africa this statement could be buttressed by numerous examples. South Africa’s divisive past is in no small measure responsible for the multiplicity of ways in which memory functions in the country. Since the advent of full democracy in 1994, the ways in which historical memories operate in the public sphere have...

    • CHAPTER 7 From Public History to Private Enterprise: The Politics of Memory in the New South Africa
      (pp. 121-143)
      Patrick Harries

      The political shifts in South Africa in the early 1990s initiated a sea change in the way the country looked at its past. Scholars became less concerned with the causes of apartheid than with the consequences of the ideology that, since 1948, had dominated South Africa. One of the consequences of the apartheid period was a landscape of memory that reflected deep communal divisions and reinforced entrenched social identities. The roots of these divisions go back to the nineteenth century, when the Cape and Natal developed a sense of ‘Britishness’ through an architectural tradition and display that, like naming practices,...

    • CHAPTER 8 Remembering with the Future in Mind
      (pp. 144-162)
      Bernard Lategan

      How does one remember ‘with the future mind’? What exactly is the ‘future potential’ of memory? One of the main assumptions of this book is that the presence or absence of a perspective on the future affects the way in which historical memory functions. The conceptual, methodological and hermeneutical claims inherent in such an assumption need to be clarified and substantiated in the context of the present project.

      Is it possible to speak of the future potential of memory? Is memory not per definition oriented towards the past in its attempt to recall what has already happened in order to...

  5. Part II. From an Intercultural Perspective

    • CHAPTER 9 Holocaust Experience and Historical Sense Generation from a German Perspective
      (pp. 165-184)
      Jörn Rüsen

      The Holocaust is one of the most radical experiences of crisis in history. It stands out in its genocidal character and its radical negation and destruction of the basic values of modern civilization. As such it negates and destroys even the principles of its historical interpretation.

      It has often been characterized as a ‘black hole’ of meaning that dissolves every concept of historical interpretation. It occludes the construction of a meaningful narrative connection between the time before and after it. It is a ‘borderline experience’ of history, which does not allow its integration into a coherent narrative. Every attempt to...

    • CHAPTER 10 Ayodhya, Memory, Myth: Futurizing the Past from an Indian Perspective
      (pp. 185-192)
      Ranjan Ghosh

      ‘While the emanation of individual memory’, writes Nancy Wood,

      is primarily subject to the laws of the unconscious, public memory – whatever its unconscious vicissitudes – testifies to a will or desire on the part of some social group or disposition of power to select and organize representations of the past so that these will be embraced by individuals as their own. If particular representations of the past have permeated the public domain, it is because they embody an intentionality – social, political, institutional and so on – that promotes or authorizes their entry. (1999: 2)

      Indian history, with its...

    • CHAPTER 11 Human Suffering and Forgiveness: A Dialogue with Kim Dae-jung from an East Asian Perspective
      (pp. 193-204)
      Han Sang-Jin

      What will follow this short introductory essay is a dialogue between a student of Seoul National University and Kim Dae-jung, former president of the Republic of Korea (1998–2003), that took place in a classroom at Seoul National University (SNU), Seoul, Korea on 26 September 1997. As an invited speaker, Dae-jung first delivered a forty-minute lecture on the topic of ‘Asian Values and Democracy’ and then had a question-and-answer type of debate for one hour with students and faculty members in a fully packed auditorium. The following dialogue is only a small part of this debate, whose topics were diverse....

  6. Part III. Texts from the Praxis of Memory, Trauma, Forgiveness and Healing

    • CHAPTER 12 Remorse, Forgiveness and Rehumanization: Stories from South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission
      (pp. 207-226)
      Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

      South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has been acclaimed for bringing the awful facts of apartheid to light, for creating a context for those who suffered to tell their stories and for managing this difficult process in an even-handed way that avoided acrimony. But over and above the TRC’s role in documenting the past, and even the opportunity it provided to those who for years have suffered in silence to put their stories on record, there is a more inward dimension of the commission’s work that has received relatively little coverage from either social scientists or the media. In...

    • CHAPTER 13 Healing from Auschwitz and Mengele’s Experiments
      (pp. 227-234)
      Eva Mozes Kor

      Dear Fellow survivors, Dr Markl, Dr Sachse, Doctors, Scientists, Researchers and Guests.¹

      Fifty-seven years ago I was a human guinea pig in Auschwitz. Much progress has been made in order for us to be here at the KWI/MPS, the institute that was in charge of our experiments. I thank you for holding this symposium. I hope we can all learn from the past and begin to heal our pain.

      Twenty years ago, I began thinking about the other Mengele Twins and started actively searching for them. From the time I began to the time that we made our historic trip...

  7. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 235-238)
  8. Index
    (pp. 239-248)