OSL Seminar – Postcolonial Remembrances: Violence and Identity in Literature and Film

Date: Nov 2018 – Jan 2019
(6 meetings: 2 November 2018, 15:00-19:00; 16 November 2018, 15:00-19:00; 23 November 2018 (15:00-19:00; 30 November 2018, 14:00-19:00; 11 January,15:00-19:00; 18 January 2018, 12:00-19:00 )
Location: University of Amsterdam, see below
Instructor: Dr Ihab Saloul
Credits: 5 EC
Registration: Open to PhD candidates and RMA students (maximum participants 15-20 students)


“The colonized man finds his freedom in and through violence.”
— Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth (1963:86)

The decisive role that Fanon attributes to material violence in the colonial context had an inexorable afterlife in the postcolonial world. According to Fanon, violence functions like a language in the colonial system, such that the colonised who seeks to overthrow the coloniser is only writing back in the coloniser’s own language. The texts and films we will study reflect this intersection of violation and political violence. Contrary to Fanon, however, they present it as a mutating, complex cultural phenomenon that draws its energies from multiple historical narratives and postcolonial remembrances. Postcolonial literary and audiovisual narratives, as we will see, not only locate violence in culturally specific sites and values such as shame, honour, purity and sacrifice, but they also draw their charge from the ways the corporeality or the embodied politics of “the victim” is made to stand in for the body politic. Think of the links between contemporary cases of political conflict across the world and Western colonial histories of these territories. Other examples include European experiences with the so-called “violent migrant”, and how the phenomenon of migration runs the risk of being enduringly aesthetized. Among other matters, postcolonial texts and media expose the brutalities of war, the entanglement of family dynamics in armed resistance to political oppression, the ambiguities of bearing witness to violation, and the effects of metropolitan values imposed upon poverty-stricken societies on the brink of chaos. These topics among others will be the focus of our discussion in this seminar. We will explore the historical references that postcolonial remembrances and cultural expressions adopt in the context of globalisation, and ask whether their symbolism adds or undercuts their political urgency? How does the extremity of the subject matter of these narratives and media effect their reaching beyond the conventions of realism into the realms of memory and the imagined (even the surreal, and the grotesque sometimes)? Of related interest will be the ways in which postcolonial literature and media experiment with anti-linear narrative sequences and spatiotemporal continuities of memory in order to stage an apocalyptic climax that collapses past, present and future violence.

Reading materials include Asia Djebar, Algerian White (2000);  Liyana Badr, A Balcony Over the Fakihani (1983); Santosh Sivan, The Terrorist (1998)

The seminar’s objectives are:

  • To introduce students to postcolonial memory debates and theories in connection to literary and filmic representations of memory, violence, migration, identity and globalisation.
  • To provide students with analytical tools to deal with these concepts in postcolonial literatures and films from different historical and cultural contexts.

Instructional Format & Examination
The seminar includes lectures, tutorials, film viewings (students are expected to watch films in advance) and a mini-conference. Students are expected to:

  • Attend and actively participate in all sessions (20%)
  • Prepare a group presentation, and an Individual presentation for the mini-conference (30%)
  • 3000 word analytical report, with a focus on one or more themes of the seminar (50%)

2 November 2018 –  15:00-19:00 – OIH D2.04
16 November 2018 – 15:00-19:00 – OIH D2.04
23 November 2018 – 15:00-19:00 – OIH E0.14B
30 November 2018 – 14:00-19:00 – UB C1.13
11 January 2019 – 15:00-19:00 – OIH E0.14B
18 January 2019 – 12:00-19:00 – OIH E0.14C 

OIH – Oost-Indisch Huis
UB – Universiteitsbibliotheek