u:africa talk - Decolonising the Public Space: Contestations of public memory and memory activism in postcolonial Germany

18.06.2024 17:15

Speaker: Heike Becker, University of the Western Cape


My presentation engages two interrelated aspects of contested memory politics in contemporary Germany: the first one is the impact of the (political) culture war against “Postcolonialism", which has culminated in an intellectual-political debate about the Holocaust and other historical and contemporary genocides and mass atrocities (’Historikerstreit 2.0’), and related political consequences. The second aspect is the links drawn by civic action movements between decolonial spatial principles to those of enduring structural violence, particularly racism; furthermore: whether, and if so, how have these links been developed into new alliances, including Black-Palestinian solidarity.

I discuss German memory politics through examples drawn from ethnographic and arts-based research in Cape Town, Windhoek, and Berlin. The multisited ethnography of decolonial memory activism aims to unearth and theorise entangled decolonial histories, knowledges and activist practices in former colonized and colonizing societies.


Heike Becker teaches anthropology at the University of the Western Cape. She has conducted long-term research on efforts to decolonise the public space in Namibia, South Africa, and Germany. Becker engages with the staging of former colonial empire and postcolonial nationalism through memorialisation, memory landscapes, and artistic interventions that subvert remembrance as a contested process of past-based meaning production in the present. Becker also coordinates an international collaborative project Decolonising the Public Space in Germany and its Former African Colonies: Memory, Civil Society and the Arts.

Chair: Birgit Englert

Tuesday, 18th June 2024, 5:15 pm
Department of African Studies - Seminar room 1 and online

Zoom Link: https://univienna.zoom.us/j/63904002477?pwd=UVRFRnp1Y1AvQ0JIL0VBME5URnFsQT09
University Campus, court 5.1.,  Spitalgasse 2, 1090 Vienna