Remembering Independence explores the commemoration and remembrance of independence following the great wave of decolonisation after the Second World War. Drawing on case studies from Africa, Asia, and with reference to the Pacific, the authors find that remembering independence was, and still is, highly dynamic. From flag-raising moments to the present day, the transfer of authority from colonial rule to independent nation-states has served as a powerful mnemonic focal point.
Remembering independence, in state as well as non-state constructions, connects to changing contemporary purposes and competing politic visions. Independence is a flexible idea, both a moment in time and a project, a carrier of hopes and ideals of social justice and freedom, but also of disappointments and frustrated futures.
This richly illustrated volume draws attention to the broad range of media employed in remembering independence, ranging from museums and monuments to textual, oral and ritual formats of commemorative events, such as national days. Combining insights from history and anthropology, this book will be essential reading for all students of the history of empire, decolonisation, nation-building and post-colonial politics of memory.
Table of Contents
List of figures
1. Remembering independence: concepts and media
2. Independence Days: remembering the past, contesting the present, constructing the future
3. National heroes: making and unmaking the remembered
4. Martyrs, victims and anti-heroes: revisiting the national gallery
5. Regional aspirations and legitimising centres: constructing a national mnemonic landscape
6. Adjusting the clock: temporal flexibility in remembering independence
Appendix: brief portraits of case study countries
Carola Lentz is senior research professor of anthropology at Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz (Germany). Since November 2020, she serves as president of the Goethe-Institut. Her research focuses on West Africa, and questions of ethnicity and nationalism, colonial and post-colonial history, land rights, the emergence of a middle class, and the politics of memory. Her book Land, Mobility and Belonging in West Africa (2013) received the Melville Herskovits Prize by the African Studies Association of the US. She is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.
David Lowe is professor of contemporary history at Deakin University, Geelong (Australia). He is a historian of modern international relations, including decolonisation, the Cold War, and the rise of foreign aid. His book, Remembering the Cold War (2013), with Tony Joel, was the first in the Routledge Remembering the Modern World series. He is a member of the Academy for the Social Sciences in Australia.
"Lavishly illustrated and genuinely inter-disciplinary, Remembering Independence reminds us that, for all the artificiality and incompleteness of so-called 'transfers of power', the cultural symbolism of independence days would resonate in post-colonial societies for years afterwards. Interrogating the multiple roles assigned to ceremonial independence days in political cultures, nation-building narratives, and popular memories, the book offers a refreshingly different perspective on the cultural legacies of decolonization."
Martin Thomas, University of Exeter, United Kingdom
"This excellent study on the complexities of remembering independence contributes to larger questions about populism and nationalism, which is currently rising globally to an alarming extent. On the aesthetic level, the book invites the reader to think about globally-operating companies, who not only sell their service in creating monuments or museums, but also sell a kind of normative symbolism ... the book is a highly recommended reading to all those interested in methodological questions of how to do a meaningful comparison."
Katrin Bromber, TRAFO - Blog for Transregional Research, 18.10.2018, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/13824.
"While offering a broad panorama of different practices of remembering in a range of countries, Lentz and Lowe succeed in presenting their examples in an accessible style that allows non-specialists to engage with the topic. They show that independence is not a fixed event of the past but continuously created and reinterpreted through the perception of participants and later born generations, victims and onlookers."
Christoph Marx, Dhau / Jahrbuch für außereuropäische Geschichte 4, 2019
"The strength of this book lies in the balance between description and comparison. The distinguishing characteristics of the eight selected countries (or by extension of postcolonial Africa and Asia-Pacific in general), the similarities and differences between the eight cases at hand, as well as the differences and changes over time within each of these countries provide complexity to the ethnographical and historical analysis of past, present and future in the remembering of independence ... The book meets the ambitions and expectations it raised. It is also a pleasant read, richly illustrated and replete with insightful examples."
Geert Castryck, Universität Leipzig in Connections. A Journal for Historians and Area Specialists
"[T]his volume is a must-read for anyone interested in postcolonial nationalism, decolonisation of European empires and the memory politics of postcolonial nations between the end of the Second World War and the end of the Cold War."
Stefan Berger, Postcolonial Studies