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Remembering Portuguese Empire Today: From Public Memory to Personal Testimony

March 1, 2017 @ 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm


Remembering Portuguese Empire Today: From Public Memory to Personal Testimony

Date and time
1s March 2017
18:30 – 21:00 heure : Luxembourg

University of Luxembourg (Campus Belval)
Avenue de l’Université
Maison du Savoir, Room 3.520

Registration here: http://bit.ly/PortugueseEmpire



What about (re)visiting Lisbon in the next session of Let’s Talk about history? 

Our second conference this year invites you for a journey through the memories of the Portuguese Empire, its symbolic representations and its role in the narratives of national identities in Portugal. How Lisbon, and particularly the Belém quarter, celebrates the “Empire’s Golden Age” and which are the dark legacies of the empire nowadays are important questions for the debate.

A great opportunity to discuss the interplay between history, memory and nation. We expect lots of you to join the debate!

International guests: 

Elsa Peralta, University of Lisbon, Portugal.

Teresa Pinheiro, Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany.

Part I – Teresa Pinheiro 

As in 1975 the last Portuguese colonies found their way into independence, Portugal looked back on an over 500 years old colonial empire. One way or the other, the long lasting epoch of colonialism has always been a cornerstone in Portuguese narratives of national identity.

In my talk, I will first outline the main colonial cycles in Portuguese history, beginning with sixteenth-century Portuguese India, moving then to the long epoch of colonial rule in Brazil from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century and ending with the shift of colonial ambitions to Africa after Brazil’s independence in 1822. In a second step, I will address the colonial politics of the Portuguese Estado Novo under Oliveira Salazar, focussing on the symbolic practices of representation of the empire. As we will see, the politics of memory during the Estado Novo were very much engaged in incorporating the age of discovery into the homogeneous narrative of national identity in order to legitimize the colonial presence in Africa.

Teresa Pinheiro is a professor for Iberian Studies at Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany. She has received her PhD in Cultural Anthropology with a thesis on representations of Brazil in sixteenth-century colonial accounts. Main research fields: Iberian Cultural Studies, Memory Studies, National Narratives and Migration. Some publications: „Memoria de la República en las transiciones democráticas ibéricas” in: Pasajes de pensamiento contemporáneo, 48, 49-64, 2015; “O retorno dos retornados. A construção de memória do passado recente na série televisiva Depois do Adeus“ in: Elias Torres, ed., Estudos da AIL em Literatura, História e Cultura Portuguesas. Santiago de Compostela 2015, 279-290; “Das portugiesische Kolonialreich” in: Hermann Hiery, ed., Lexikon zur Überseegeschichte. Stuttgart 2015, 657-658; “Die Nelkenrevolution im 21. Jahrhundert: Wandel einer erinnerungspolitischen Praxis” in: Janett Reinstädler, Henry Thorau (eds.), Die Nelkenrevolution und ihre Folgen. Berlin 2014, 17-32; “Facetten des erinnerungskulturellen Umgangs mit dem Estado Novo in Portugal” in: Neue Politische Literatur, 55, 1, 2010, 7-22.

Part II – Elsa Peralta

I will take on the central place of the age of discoveries in contemporary Portuguese memory culture to show how national public space, especially in the capital Lisbon, is saturated with heritage and museum representations alluding to the empire’s golden age. I will take the example of the Belém quarter in Lisbon as a paradigmatic case of this representation, begun at the end of the nineteenth century, intensified during the Estado Novo and continued in the democratic period, which shows that imperial history is one of the main cornerstones of Portuguese national identity to the present day.

This history of conquest and heroism is however tarnished by the tragic events that accompanied the end of the African empire: the colonial wars and the massive and sudden exodus of settlers who lived and worked in the African colonies. I will finish my presentation with a debate on the dark legacies of the end of the Portuguese empire and with a reflection on its place in the imperial memory complex of the Portuguese nation today, also addressing the private voices of those who had to cope with these legacies.

Elsa Peralta, PhD in Anthropology (ISCSP-UTL, 2006), is a FCT research fellow at the Centre for Comparative Studies (CEC), School of Arts & Humanities, University of Lisbon, Portugal. Her work draws on crossed perspectives from anthropology, memory studies and postcolonial studies and focuses on the intersection between private and public modes of recall of past events, in particular of the colonial past. She was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences (ICS-UL) with a research project on the memory and forgetting of Portuguese colonial empire in postcolonial Portugal. In CEC she coordinates the Research Line “Legacies of Empire and Colonialism in Comparative Perspective” and is currently working on the project “Narratives of loss, war and trauma: Portuguese cultural memory and the end of empire”. Her works include the edited volumes Heritage and Identity: Engagement and Demission in Contemporary Society, Routledge, 2009 (with Marta Anico) andCidade e Império: Dinâmicas coloniais e reconfigurações pós-coloniais, Edições 70, 2013 (with Nuno Domingos). She was the curator and Scientific Coordinator of the Exhibition “Return – Traces of Memory” produced by EGEAC, City Council of Lisbon.

After the conference, we invite everybody to join us for a short cocktail. 


  • 18h30: registration and welcoming words
  • 18h45: conference
  • 19h45: discussion
  • 20h15: cocktail


March 1, 2017
6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
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Let’s Talk About History!


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