Author: Lars Jensen
Istitutional affiliation: Roskilde University
Country: Denmark

Title: From Colonial Discourse to Post-Imperial Anxieties: Continental Europe’s Difficulties in Coming to Terms with Its Imperial Legacy


In a few months Edinburgh U.P. will publish A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures in Continental Europe and its Empires. As one of the chief editors of this volume I would like to speak about some of the thoughts that went into the development of this volume. This includes, obviously, the discussions around empires in continental Europe compared to those that have evolved in the British context. It introduces also the question of the relative position of these discussions inside the broader postcolonial paradigm. And finally, it asks questions concerning cultural translation both between the various continental European colonial discourses, and between the post-imperial legacies, in the wake of migrant influx into Europe from the ex-colonial world.
It is a difficult task, as we learnt in the process, of picking a safe track through these vastly disparate histories, yet at the same time there is no doubt that they were deeply interconnected, in quite often intricate ways. Hence, when King Leopold needed captains, and officers for his regime in Congo, he found them in Scandinavia, which bar Denmark had virtually no colonial possessions overseas. It seems to me that post-imperial Europe works in similar ways. Anti-immigration platforms appear seemingly out of overtly national(ist) concerns, yet they crop up simultaneously in various parts of Europe. It is this finely woven imperial and post-imperial texture which covers apparently very different national histories and historical periods that I wish to begin to unravel.

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