Unfinished Histories

Empire and Postcolonial Resonance in Central Africa and Belgium

Edited by Pierre-Philippe Fraiture

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Colonial memory and interdisciplinary memorialization across Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Belgium
Belgian colonialism was short-lived but left significant traces that are still felt in the twenty-first century. This book explores how the imperial past has lived on in Belgium, but also in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. The contributing authors approach colonial legacies from an interdisciplinary perspective and examine how literature, politics, the arts, the press, cinema, museal practices, architecture, and language policies – but also justice and ethics – have been used to critically revisit this period of African and European history. Whilst engaging with significant figures such as Sammy Baloji, Chokri Ben Chikha, Gaël Faye, François Kabasele, Alexis Kagame, Edmond Leplae, VY Mudimbe, Fiston Mwanza Mujila, Joseph Ndwaniye, and Sony Labou Tansi, this book also analyses the role of places such as the AfricaMuseum, Bujumbura, Colwyn Bay, Kongolo, and the Virunga Park to appraise the links between memory and the development of a postcolonial present.

Contributors: Sarah Arens (University of Liverpool), Robert Burroughs (Leeds Beckett), Bambi Ceuppens (AfricaMuseum), Matthias De Groof (University of Antwerp), Catherine Gilbert (University of Newcastle), Chantal Gishoma (University of Bayreuth), Hannah Grayson (University of Stirling), Dónal Hassett (University of Cork), Sky Herington (University of Warwick), Nicki Hitchcott (University of St Andrews), Yvette Hutchison (University of Warwick), Albert Kasanda (Charles University, Prague), Maëline Le Lay (CNRS/ THALIM, Sorbonne nouvelle), Reuben Loffman (Queen Mary University of London), Caroline Williamson Sinalo (University of Cork)

Ebook available in Open Access.
This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).

Thinking, Performing, and Overcoming Belgium’s ‘Colonial Power Matrix’? An Introduction
Pierre-Philippe Fraiture

Part 1 — Regimes of Knowledge and Decolonisation

Must Leopold Fall? The Renovation of the AfricaMuseum and Belgium’s Place in International Debates on the Decolonisation of Public Heritage
Dónal Hassett

Imperial Fictions: Belgian Novels about Rwanda
Nicki Hitchcott

Confronting the Colonial Past? Genocide Education in Francophone Belgian Schools
Catherine Gilbert

Part 2 — International Resonances

Imperial Entanglements of the Congo/African Institute, Colwyn Bay, Wales (1889–1911)
Robert Burroughs

Performative Challenges to Belgium’s Colonial Amnesia: Mobilising Archives and Resonant Spaces
Yvette Hutchison

Writing in Ciluba: From Colonial Extirpation to the Challenge of Globalisation
Albert Kasanda

Part 3 — Imperial Practices and Their Afterlives

Media Representations of Burundi’s 2020 Elections in Belgium and Burundi
Caroline Williamson Sinalo

Living with Ruination: Rural Neglect and the Persistence of ‘Grey’ Colonial Architecture in Kongolo, Tanganyika, DRC
Reuben A. Loffman

Cash Crops and Clichés: Agriculture, Contact Zones, and Afterlives of Belgian Colonialism
Sarah Arens

The Legacy of Alexis Kagame: Responses to Conceptions of Colonisation and Evangelisation in Rwanda
Chantal Gishoma

Part 4 — Trans-African Entanglements

‘Depuis la Flamandchourie’: Legacies of Belgian Colonialism in Sony Labou Tansi’s Kinshasa
Sky Herington

Landscaping and Escaping the Colony in Mudimbe’s, Ruti’s, and Nayigiziki’s Works’
Maëline Le Lay

Récit d’enfance, récit de distance: Gaby as implicated subject in Gaël Faye’s Petit Pays
Hannah Grayson

Part 5 —The Emergence of Diasporic Agents

‘Without Art Congo Is Just a Mine’: Art as the Restoration of Shattered Bodies
Bambi Ceuppens

From Leopold III’s Masters of the Congo Jungle to Contemporary Congolese Eco-Cinema: Postcolonial Resonance
Matthias De Groof

Tracking the Potholes of Colonial History: Sinzo Aanza’s Généalogie d’une banalité and Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s Tram 83
Pierre-Philippe Fraiture

About the authors

Format: Edited volume - paperback

Size: 234 × 156 × 24 mm

426 pages

ISBN: 9789462703575

Publication: November 16, 2022

Languages: English

Stock item number: 151310

Pierre-Philippe Fraiture is professor of French Studies at the University of Warwick.

Der Sammelband leistet einen wichtigen und nuancierten Beitrag zur akademischen Verortung des Kulturkontaktes zwischen Belgien und ›seinen‹ ehemaligen Kolonien in Afrika. Das übergeordnete Thema des Buches hat nicht zuletzt auch durch die globale Black Lives Matters-Bewegung und ihre Auswirkungen in Belgien an Bedeutung und Aufmerksamkeit gewonnen, woraus die hohe gesellschaftliche Relevanz der verhandelten Fragestellungen im Sammelband resultiert. Besonders überzeugend ist der nahezu alle Beiträge betreffende Ansatz, ideelle und materielle Resonanzräume der belgisch-afrikanischen Beziehungen als interkulturelle Kontaktzonen zu betrachten und ihr Potential für eine inklusivere Verständigung auszuloten. Damit trägt der Sammelband nicht nur zur Dekonstruktion kolonialer Stereotype bei, sondern bietet zudem Anknüpfungspunkte für die nachhaltige Etablierung interkultureller Kulturbeziehungen. Kritiker*innen des Bandes könnten anführen, dass eine thematisch konsistentere – und dadurch zusammenhängende – Schwerpunktsetzung der einzelnen Beiträge an mancher Stelle sinnvoll gewesen wäre. Allerdings trägt gerade die disziplinäre und thematische Breite dieses Sammelbandes und seine beinahe komparatistisch wirkende Struktur zu seiner hohen Qualität und dem damit verbundenen Erkenntnisgewinn bei. - Julien Bobineau, Romanische Forschungen 136 (2024)


This collection reflects on Belgium’s history of involvement in Central Africa to uncover postcolonial traces of that past. Although books on the cultural legacies of Belgian colonialism exist, few address ‘the memory and memorialisation of this historical process across a whole region including the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Belgium’ (p. 28; original emphasis). (...) The volume is interdisciplinary, with essays on history, literature, journalism, art, philology, architecture, and film, and it privileges critical voices from a younger generation, including from Central Africa. (...) Its cumulative bibliography is a welcome reference, and the historical context provided in several chapters makes the book accessible to those unfamiliar with the history of colonialism in Central Africa. - Matthew G Stanard, French Studies, knad188, https://doi.org/10.1093/fs/knad188


Le recueil apporte une contribution importante et nuancée à la localisation académique du contact culturel entre la Belgique et »ses« anciennes colonies en Afrique. Le thème général du livre a gagné en importance et en attention, notamment grâce au mouvement mondial Black Lives Matter et à ses répercussionsen Belgique, ce qui explique la grande pertinence sociale des questions traitées dans le recueil. L’approche adoptée par presque toutes les contributions, qui consiste à considérer les espaces de résonance idéels et matériels des relations belgo-africaines comme des zones de contact interculturelles et à explorer leur potentiel pour une compréhension plus inclusive, est particulièrement convaincante. Ainsi, le recueil ne contribue pas seulement à la déconstruction des stéréotypes coloniaux, mais offre également des points de départ pour l’établissement durable de relations interculturelles.
Julien Bobineau, Francia-Recensio 2023/2, https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/frrec/article/view/96958

The strength of this book is to coordinate different points of view around the question of the complex relationship between Empire and Postcolony. The disciplinary plurality of the interventions in fact allows the reader to range between anthropology and linguistics, literature and the arts, achieving the aim of offering a complete picture of the complex issue. This volume will constitute a reference point in the field of postcolonial studies related to Central Africa.
Silvia Riva, Università degli Studi di Milano