Academic journal article German Quarterly

(Post-)Colonialism across Europe: Transcultural History and National Memory

Academic journal article German Quarterly

(Post-)Colonialism across Europe: Transcultural History and National Memory

Article excerpt

Göttsche, Dirk, and Axel Dunker, editors. (Post-)Colonialism across Europe: Transcultural History and National Memory. Aisthesis, 2014. 390 pp. €39.80 (paperback).

(Post-)Colonialism across Europe is a timely contribution to the growing field of "transnational studies" in modern languages and cultures. Although Dirk Göttsche does not single out, in his informative introduction, "transnationalism" as a term that will play a key role in the volume, the book's revisiting of (post-)colonialism in Europe does tie in with the recent "transnational turn in literary studies" (compare Elisabeth Herrmann, Carrie Smith-Prei, and Stuart Taberner, editors, Transnationalism in Contemporary German-Language Literature [2015, 2]) and contributes to current debates revolving around Europeanness, migration, and transculturalism. The volume's aim is a comparative view of the legacy of European colonialism(s) (7-8), which is reflected in the first term of its subtitle: "transcultural history." The comparative potential in postcolonial criticism is often overlooked-as the editors and several contributors justifiably lament-by the Anglocentrism that has dominated the field of Postcolonial Studies (e.g., 29). It is the volume's aim therefore to develop further "Comparative Postcolonial Studies" (7-8). By including "national memory"- the second term in the subtitle-in the consideration of (post-)colonialism across Europe, that is, by aiming "to develop a more consistent account of the striking synergy between colonialism and nation building" (9), the editors extend discourses on memory to an under-researched area in the history of "less classically" colonial European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, or Denmark.

In a volume comprising sixteen chapters I can only highlight those that particularly successfully address the book's aims mentioned above. The volume is divided into three main sections. The examination of (post-)colonialism beyond the Anglophone world begins with "Theorizing Postcolonialism(s) across Europe" in six essays that each focus on a different country's engagement with their colonial past and postcolonial present. The contributions by Yves Clavaron on "La Francophone and Beyond" (135-48) and Paulo de Medeiros, who is working towards first definitions of "Post-Imperial Europe" (151-64), stand out in this section as they specifically engage with the volume's rationale: Claravon and de Medeiros, respectively, voice clear criticism of the problematic nature of AngloSaxon theories in a French context and originally extend the field's much needed comparative perspective to include new insights into imperialism. Their contributions therefore not only challenge existing postcolonial approaches but also expand our understanding of the meaning of postcolonial criticism in Europe today.

Section II, "European Literature and Culture in Postcolonial Perspective," engages with literary and cultural case studies from some of the countries considered in the first part. On the whole this section leans towards representations of German imperialism (four out of the five contributions focus on German literature), which may leave readers with a slightly one-sided view on "European" colonialism. Dirk Göttsche's contribution on "Memory and Critique of Colonialism in Contemporary German and English Historical Novels about Africa" is the most convincing essay in this section, as it explicitly engages with "European colonialism" as "a transnational process with increasingly global implications" (251). Göttsche also involves memory discourses in his consideration of the transnational nature of European colonialism, an aspect which, despite the volume's subtitle, often lingers in the background in other chapters.

Section III, "Conceptualizing Internal European (Post-)Colonialisms," is, in many ways, the most original section in the book with its diverse examinations of the relationship between European "colonizers" and "Europe's internal others" (29). …

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