Volume 34, Issue 2, 2006
Between Semiotics and Anthropology
La construction de la mémoire coloniale en Érythrée
les Erythréens, les Métis, les Italiens. — The construction of memory in colonial Eritrea: Eritreans, Mestizos and Italians
The construction of memory in colonial Eritrea: Eritreans, Mestizos and Italians. Focusing on some passages of life histories collected in Asmara and based on the ‘memory of Italy’, I study the representation of the past in order to reveal the shaping of the subjective experience by the colonial discourse in Eritrea. If the main aim of my essay is the understanding of the play of interactions between individuals and collectivity, one more important element I take into account is ‘memory’ seen as a “social selection of remembering” (Halbwachs). I try to connect the social position and narrative role of single members (of the Eritrean society) to the meaning it takes the ‘going back to the past’ for them as individuals belonging to a group (an Eritrean, a Mestizo, an Italian) in relation to the past and the present. The consequence is that the logic dominant/dominated is inadequate to explain the internal articulations of the colonial context and that the focus must be shifted on individual and collective systems of expectations and on the negotiations of meaning resulting from a “past always to be recovered” and a “present always to be rebuilt”.