Gitanjali Pyndiah (Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, London)
Indian Ocean Memories Workshop:
“Collective Amnesia, Denial or Disavowal of History? The Indian Ocean Islands of Mauritius and its Colonial Past”
Tuesday 19 May | 12-2 pm | Frankfurt, Goethe University, IG 1.414
While an all-embracing concept of the cartography of the Indian Ocean region would comprise of 52 countries, the Indian Ocean Commission for instance is composed of only five island-states. Uninhabited and insular islands of the Indian Ocean have specific histories of Dutch, French and British colonisation, ‘illegal’ US occupation and militarisation, exploitation of African and Asian populations, migration, cultural and religious forced encounters, spaces of quarantine, spaces of refuge, all under the sunny headlines of island paradises. Narratives of this collective history is however approached differently across nations and remembering the specificities of the Indian Ocean is as necessary as imagining the region as a whole. This paper focuses on how this colonial history is remembered on the Islands of Mauritius. One of the conclusions reached by the Truth and Justice Commission (TJC) in 2011 is that Mauritians in general know very little about their histories. The TJC, whose mandate was to assess the consequences of slavery and indenture during the colonial period up to the present, attributes this situation to the ‘difficult lives’ led by the people, explaining that victims who have suffered the violence of exploitative systems often deny the past or favour ‘amnesia rather than remembering’.
My research argues 1. that the dissemination of national history based on encouraging a collective amnesia was a political move after Independence to avoid transfering the trauma to the next generation and instigate the potential of hope 2. that a colonial memorial framework prevailed and provoked the romanticising as well as the disavowal of a colonial past onthe main island and 3. that a memoriography in language, music, theatre, literature and the arts has acted as a decolonising momentum producing affective histories.
Science Day at Ernst Reuter School 1:
“Identity and Culture”
Hanna Teichler and Jarula Wegner of FMSP were invited to the Ernst Reuter Schule 1 to join their annual science day. This year’s topic “Identity and Tolerance” was introduced and discussed in several lectures and workshops. The aim of the annual science day is to bring together fundamental academic research with timely questions and to offer insights into academic fields. Complex and intricate subjects are explained and discussed in class in respect to present issues and questions.
“Identity and Tolerance” can be regarded as particularly pressing topics, as evidenced by public debates and media coverage. Hanna Teichler gave a lecture on “The Stolen Generation” in Australia, showing how issues of identity and tolerance have been neglected or even denied in the past. This generation poses a fundamental challenge to the present day, not only for those experiencing abduction, denial and re-education, but for society as a whole. Among a variety of necessary amendments is the reconsideration of the memory of Aboriginal culture in relation to and beyond the experience of a “Stolen Generation”.
In workshops Hanna Teichler and Jarula Wegner discussed the topic “Identity and Culture”. Images of asylum seekers, protesting citizens and integration debates fill public media. Public debates highlight the challenge of migrants to an occidental identity and social cohesion. In light of these debates it deserves to be asked how ‘the occidental identity’ is constructed and which factors come to play in social cohesion. A retroactive simplification and homogenization of memory discourse are but obvious trap doors in these pressing issues.
The science day is organised in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Interior and the Dr. Buhmann Fund.
All pictures taken by Merten Giesen.