Africa and East-Central Europe: Integrating self, community, state, and global narratives

Africa and East-Central Europe: Integrating self, community, state, and global narratives

Format: Workshop.

Dates: August 10-12, 2019 (3 days, 3 hours/day).

Level: Introductory.

Disciplines: International relations and literature, cultural history. Trauma – trauma studies, psychology, cultural and literary studies, cultural reflection of war, dictatorship and authoritarian rule, memory & history.


Course description:

The course aims to bring together participants with an interest in exploring differences and similarities between the lived experiences of colonialism & postcolonialism, as well as totalitarianism and the transition to democratic regimes in Africa and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). In more specific terms, experiences like those in apartheid South Africa, the the Biafra war in Nigeria, the genocide in Rwanda or the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya will be reflected upon in relation to the Holocaust and the anti-communist resistance in CEE.

In drawing parallels between the two regions, a focus will be put on self-identity, self-confidence, and strategies of coping with trauma and anger not only to illustrate the respective nations’ past trajectories, but also to explore the array of possible futures. The course will look at all levels of analysis — individual, society/state, global — as well as the corresponding array of narratives.

In both regions development and statebuilding practices have generated dynamics worth analyzing. The consolidation of the postcolonial states in Africa alongside traditional forms of authority highlights significant cleavages between local communities, state institutions and the international community, just as the transition experience and re-construction of democracies have done in Central and Eastern Europe. In both regions the outcomes are frail and contested processes that can easily come undone.

We aim to draw parallels between the two contexts, while analyzing personal memory, official history and how historical traumas are repackaged by the state. For instance we may look at the rainbow nation narrative in South Africa, or the emphasis on unification versus the treatment of Ostalgie in East Germany. We will discuss short literary works or films that undo or expose the incongruences in official narratives, contribute to an archive of missing or deliberately erased stories, and express traumas that otherwise would be invisible.

Course instructors

Monica Popescu

Dr. Monica Popescu Research Fellow Dr. Monica Popescu is Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar of African Literatures at McGill University. She is the author of

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Stefan Cibian

Dr. Stefan Cibian Research Fellow, Executive Director Dr. Ștefan Cibian is a member of the Board and the executive director of the Făgăraș Research Institute. Stefan

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