Echoes of Empire--Cultural Legacies of European Colonialisms in the Modern World


TopicEchoes of Empire--Cultural Legacies of European Colonialisms in the Modern World

Lecturer: Dr Berny Sèbe, Senior Lecturer in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, University of Birmingham (UK)

Time9.00 am, 29 Nov.

PlaceWen B508

Host SchoolSchool of Foreign Studies


Lecturer Introduction

Berny Sèbe holds a doctorate in Imperial and Commonwealth History from the University of Oxford (UK), and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the Royal Geographical Society and the Higher Education Academy. He is a Senior Lecturer in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies at the University of Birmingham (UK). His research interests revolve around British and French cultures of empire, the political and cultural decolonisation of Francophone Africa, and the memory and long-term legacies of European imperialisms up to the present day. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and of Heroic Imperialists in Africa. The Promotion of British and French Colonial Heroes, 1870-1939 (Manchester University Press, 2013 and 2015) and has co-edited Echoes of Empire. Memory, Identity and Colonial Legacies (IB Tauris, 2015) and Decolonising Imperial Heroes. Cultural Legacies of the British and French Empires (Routledge, 2016).


Lecture abstract:

Global politics is largely predicated on a myth that the world is now resolutely and universally past colonialism, claiming to organise a society of equal sovereign states abiding by the rule of international law. This vision posits a ‘post-colonial’ world that has seen off the scourge of empire and succeeded it with a ‘clean slate’ alternative system; but the term has another possible meaning: a world that is not yet past colonialism, but continues to hear and interpret its echoes well beyond the end of empire as hard political reality.

This paper argues that Europe’s colonial past is still ubiquitous in the cultural realm, and that it is a key factor in understanding twenty-first century dynamics: in monuments, cityscapes and physical spaces in general but also, crucially, in every day linguistic practices, the sharing or (re-)negotiation of memories and symbols, and the playing out of domestic and international political battles. National attempts to digest it rarely pass without emotive reaction, either in former colonies or former metropoles: the paper will also engage with this highly charged legacy.