Neither forgiven nor forgotten: The analysis of the memory of the Portuguese colonial past evoked in Portuguese political discourse from 1990 to 2020
Basto Viana, Maria
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According to scholars, the dissolution of the Portuguese empire having been simultaneous with the end of the Estado Novo dictatorship should provoke a stronger cultural impact in Portuguese society than it actually did. This research focuses on the study of the memory of the Portuguese colonial past conceived by Portuguese politicians from 1990 to 2020. It discerns which elements of this colonial past are glorified and which elements are hidden in Portuguese political rhetoric in a postcolonial era. The theoretical concepts of ‘colonial aphasia’, ‘imperial debris’ and ‘ruination’ developed by anthropologist Ann Laura Stoler are applied to this research to better comprehend the characteristics of the memory of the Portuguese colonial past evoked by politicians during this time-span. The main findings of this study allow to conclude that there is an endurance of colonial values, so called ‘imperial debris’, in Portuguese political rhetoric from 1990 to 2020. These ‘imperial debris’ provoke a general lack of discussion amongst politicians on the most violent and traumatic episodes harboured in the Portuguese colonial past. A lack of discussion which has only been strongly objected to by politicians from 2017 onwards. There is an antagonism towards the Estado Novo regime which leads to the assumption that the colonial past is resolved and does not need to be further discussed. However, the remnants of this past are too visible to ignore, being present in the uncritical evocation of the ‘Portuguese Discoveries’, the lusotropicalist value of Portuguese ‘universalism’, and the ‘fraternal’ past shared between Portugal and its former colonies, under the aegis of the Portuguese language.