The Empire retracts: a case study analysis of official European state apologies offered between 2002 and 2010 for transgressions committed against former colonies

Bentley, Tom (2013) The Empire retracts: a case study analysis of official European state apologies offered between 2002 and 2010 for transgressions committed against former colonies. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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One of the more unusual and unexpected trends to emerge in 21st century international politics has been the proliferation of official apologies issued by European states for violations committed against their erstwhile colonies. Undertaking a detailed analysis of these apologies, this thesis reveals them to be rituals which powerfully capture the anxieties, ambivalences, continuities and ruptures by which contemporary liberal elites wrestle with the colonial past and its implications in the present. In particular, the thesis locates official apologies as crucial textual, symbolic and ritualistic sites where (post-)colonial relations are illuminated, rearticulated and reproduced. Focussing on four case studies, the thesis deploys the concept of collective memory to map out the ways in which government apologies and accompanying texts engage with and recollect the past so as to articulate new, though not always radically different, historical narratives. In sketching these processes, the project conveys the overlapping contours by which, through apology, states both simultaneously impart particular perceptions of the past and, in turn, employ such constructions in their political, economic, diplomatic, and ideational armoury. The central argument of the thesis is that, despite offering discourses that moderate and temper conventional colonial narratives, the performatives nevertheless reconfigure a relationship that resembles patterns and asymmetries forged in the colonial era. This proceeds in two key ways: 1) the apologies advance particular interests of states (or particular people within the states) that historically practiced colonialism and 2) the apologies and adjacent elite discourses are laden with sentiments (paternalism, normative complacency, colonial glorification/sanitisation) that are reminiscent of the core legitimising tenets of the colonial enterprise. The examination and dissection of these ambivalent, multifaceted and peculiarly liberal utterances provides a significant, yet neglected, research platform that adds value to a burgeoning IR and multidisciplinary literature that, influenced by postcolonial study, traces the endurance and ruptures of colonial dynamics in the present.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonisation. Emigration and immigration. International migration > JV0001 Colonies and colonisation > JV0500 Colonising nations
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2013 18:01
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2017 13:33

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