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Special Collection

The global crisis in memory: populism, decolonisation and how we remember in the twenty-first century

Collection launched: 05 Aug 2020

Since the 1980s, the idea of ‘coming to terms with the past’, shaped by the values of neoliberal economics and liberal politics, became part of a globally-powerful consensus over how societies should overcome violent and traumatic histories. In the 2010s, in the context of the global rise of populist nationalisms, political hostility to migration, and increasingly vocal criticisms of a neoliberal order, this consensus was powerfully challenged. Rather than rejecting memory politics, new political formations have in fact embraced them.

Some chapters here historicise the growth of the liberal ‘coming to terms’ paradigm in order better to understand the present challenge to it. Others, focussing variously on social media, political rhetoric, law, visual culture and public space, explore how populists in the Americas, Europe and Asia seek to replace earlier cosmopolitan forms of remembrance with historical cultures of national victimhood and masculine racial-religious supremacy, and often resist challenges that unsettle stories of imperial and national benevolence. Moreover, these new memory practices increasingly have their own alternative internationalisms, reaching across or beyond regions in new transnational formations.

Other chapters, variously addressing countries in Latin America, Europe and Africa, either analyse leftist and decolonial resistance to both liberal and emergent populist approaches, or advocate for new memory work that can tackle the insufficiencies of the liberal ‘coming to terms’ paradigm.

Guest editors: Eva Spišiaková, Charles Forsdick, James Mark