Afterlives of Empire in the Public Imagination
21 – 22 September 2023
Dipartimento di Studi Europei, Americani e Interculturali
Sapienza Università di Roma
The resurgence of nationalist ideologies in Europe and the US has reignited interest in the histories and legacies of modern Empires. As of late, this has been strongly visible in the UK. The role of imperial nostalgia in the debates that paved the way for Brexit has drawn the attention of historians and cultural critics to how the memories and myths of Empire informed Europe-free imaginaries. Recent historical works have fruitfully investigated the legacies and memory of Empire in the UK and the unaddressed legacies of colonial rule, such as, in Caroline Elkins’s phrase, its “legac[ies] of violence”.
Taking its cue from the renewed interest in imperial history, this conference will center on the memory of new imperialism (1870-1914) and its immediate aftermath, focusing on key moments from the postwar years to the present moment. It will start from the premise that “Empire” was a cultural, institutional, and political entity that wove together colonialism, propaganda, predatory capitalism, militarism, missionary nationalism, biological racism, martial masculinity, and a heavily ideologized production of knowledge. On this assumption, the conference will investigate uses and reinventions of imperialist figures, myths, and ideas, focusing on fiction, memoirs, poetry, graphic narratives, popular history, TV series, films, and video games, as well as on the cross-fertilization of post-imperial discourses.