The RTC Committee will present the last of the Fall Colloquium Series this Wednesday, 12/05 at 1:00 pm in Walker 109. Dr Ramon Fonkoué will present a paper entitled “The Injunction to Forget: State Engineering of Collective Memory in Postcolonial Cameroon,” adapted from a chapter in his forthcoming book on nation building in Cameroon.
Abstract: Upon gaining independence, the leaders of Cameroon denied the status of martyrs to the nationalists who had paid the ultimate price for their opposition to the colonizer. Deprived of this symbolic capital, the state was condemned to an improbable quest for beacons of the nascent nation. Using Michel Foucault’s concept of “discursive formation,” this presentation investigates the state’s attempts to monopolize historiography in the aftermath of Cameroon’s war of independence. In independent Cameroon, the leaders’ claim to legitimacy was undercut by the people’s “dissident knowledge” about the nation’s “silent” heroes. As a result, political discourse, which is divorced from popular memory about the past, sees its performative power undermined by the impossibility to mourn the nation’s deaths. This paper concludes on artistic expressions of defiance to sanctioned discourse on history.