Transmemory, Identity and the Boundaries of the Portuguese Postcolonial Nation
Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales Centre d'Études Africaines Paris, France
This paper examines a kind of transnational writing resulting from transmemory work. The concept of transmemory reproduces movements beyond established communitarian spaces, national ones or others, translating geographical and social migrant experiences. Its production implies the establishment of relationships among individual or group representations of the past in colonial situations, which impact the present. Countering binary categories and stereotypes, transmemories take up Frantz Fanon's idea of a decolonization that concerns both the colonized and the colonizer. Two perspectives will be interrelated: on the one hand, military life through the memorial production of soldiers of the colonial war, and, on the other hand, civic life as represented by the memories of "retornados", Portuguese settlers repatriated after the end of the empire. Memory work on the colonial war started in the 1970s. It gave rise to a diverse corpus of literary writings, biographies, diaries, films, documentaries, press publications, military history books, blogs, sites, conferences and commemorative trips. Public memorial production of "retornados" is more recent and mainly represented by a few novels, blogs, a televised soap opera, and coffee table books with photos of colonial cities. In contrast to the treatment of war memories, which tend to be more open to the present, this body possesses a strong nostalgic character that seems to be enforced by the rarity of exchanges involving the memories of those that stayed in Africa. Confronting civic memory work with its military counterpart not only improves our knowledge of its respective specificities, but also allows to overcome the division between these two realms which was upheld by the political propaganda of "Estado Novo". Most importantly, dealing with transmemory, allows us to grasp how the dynamics of identification and de-identification destabilize the established borders of the postcolonial nation.