Journeys in the postcolonial city: re-imagining spatial politics in Paris and Brussels
This thesis examines how recent artistic and political interventions by activist groups in Paris and Brussels are re-mapping legacies of disavowed colonial crimes, notably the legacy of the 17th October 1961 massacre of Algerian protestors and the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. I suggest that by tending to the haunting nature of these traumatic episodes — by being open to the subjective sensations of grief and the inherited socio-economic and political realities in which they are bound — we can encourage new journeys through postcolonial cities and reckon with the spectres of each country’s often maligned colonial past. This thesis draws on four case studies that span social movements and static landmarks, including the digital map 17.10.61 and the multi-purpose building La Colonie, both in Paris, and site-specific walking tours, organised by the Collectif Mémoire Coloniale, and the recently inaugurated Place Patrice Lumumba, both in Brussels. By focusing on different forms of space and ideas of movement, both as a mode of social resistance and a form of journeying through the city, this thesis examines the ways in which colonial inequalities linger in everyday spaces and sites, and how they can be part of a wider process of recognising and working through memories of colonial trauma. By triangulating established theoretical interventions in memory and postcolonial studies with an auto-ethnographic analysis drawn from the guided walks tours, protests and ceremonies in specific sites or alongside certain sites, this thesis advocates for a critical shift in the objects of study that fall under the umbrella of Francophone Postcolonial Studies. It calls for a broader approach to questions of national memory and commemorations that embrace the role of the spatial and the spectral in cementing colonial pasts to present-day realities.