Shaping the future by reclaiming the past? A meta-historical analysis of conflicting historical cultures in the Belgian postcolonial debate

Begin - Einde 
2017 - 2023 (lopend)
Vakgroep Geschiedenis



In recent years, the Belgian colonial past and its contemporary legacies have increasingly become the subject of a polarized public debate. Based on my on-going BOF research project, the proposed project starts from the hypothesis that the tensions in that post- colonial debate stem not only from disagreements about the colonial past itself, but also from conflicting relationships to that past. The tensions in the Belgian debate reflect similar tensions in the international scholarly debate on historical injustice and retrospective politics. In this academic debate there is disagreement about the emancipatory potential of politics regarding the past on the road to social justice in the future. Because most scholars in this debate have so far tried to answer this question in abstract and philosophical ways, they increasingly point to the importance of contextual empirical case studies that can help comprehend why a focus on historical injustice is so important for some on the way to the future. This project investigates the influence of historical cultures and their underlying assumptions about time, past and historiography in the Belgian postcolonial debate. Doing so, this project responds to the lack of empirical case studies in the international debate on historical injustice, while simultaneously providing an innovative perspective on the polarization within the Belgian debate.