During the Rio Olympic Games of 2016 a conservative British MP tweeted a map of the British Empire along with the words “Empire goes for gold.” This is only one example of how recent events have prompted some in the west to recall tropes and narratives of empires with a sense of longing for a supposedly better past. The British vote in favor of “Brexit” along with the French presidential election’s debate on how to unconditionally love the French past highlighted the enduring power of imperialist discourse and the contentious politics of the ways in which empire is remembered and invoked. In some European instances similar tropes permeate the longings of the once-colonized as well as the former colonizer.
The current political situation in the US has also drawn attention to the problematic nature of appeals to nostalgia by revealing how a desire to “return” to a past marked by racial and gendered hierarchies can be deployed in an effort to deny democratic progress. While references to empire in US rhetoric may be less explicit than in European cases, the past is similarly re-presented as a moment of order, of clarity, and opulence.
The special issue of the Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies “On post-colonial nostalgia” seeks to explore the relationship between contemporary history and the melancholy of empire, the specificities of this type of remembering, the position of who remembers vis-à-vis imperial and colonial administrations, and the modalities of remembrance.
The editors will consider contributions in the humanities and social sciences that reflect on the following questions:
- What is it about the post-colonial present that creates the longing for empire?
- What is the purpose of post-colonial nostalgia and “whose nostalgia” is present in the public sphere?
- What is the place of violence and suppression of democracy in the personal and public memories of empires?
- How does nostalgia manifest itself in high/elite culture, and in popular culture, respectively?
- Can nostalgia ever be positive and represent resistance to present oppressive circumstances?
Contributions to the Field
“On Post-colonial Nostalgia” contributes to the field of colonial and post-colonial studies by analyzing the intersections between the history of empires and the history of the present. The modalities and purposes of nostalgia confirm the centrality of the relationship between empires, politics, and everyday life. Nostalgia also represents a continuum in the history of colonialism and challenges the notions of end of empires. Decolonization may have ended formal empires, but discursive norms have continued to wield powerful influence, manifesting themselves in new-old forms with different longings at different times.
Manuscripts of c. 5,000 words and following MLA guidelines for formatting should be submitted by November 1st 2017 according to the Journal’s guidelines at Preliminary ideas and/or complete articles can be submitted to the guest editors at:
Simon Lewis, English Department, College of Charleston, LewisS@cofc.edu
Giusi Russo, History Department, Montgomery County Community College, firstname.lastname@example.org