Monday, May 25, 2015

Maria Dermout and "unremembering" lost time

It has been nine months since I last wrote in this blog, basically because I needed to focus my energy somewhere else - researching the cultural legacy of decolonization in the Netherlands.

This, I am happy to say, has resulted in an article of mine appearing in the Canadian Journal Of Netherlandic Studies. Nevermind that it is the 2013 edition of the journal - it only appeared last week.

My article provides an analysis of two Dutch novels. In the early 1950s  Only yesterday (Nog pas gisteren) and The ten thousand things (De tienduizend dingen), appeared from a new writer, Maria Dermoût. In this essay I argue that both of these works helped to shape a collective memory of the recent colonial past and that with the loss of place, the Indisch community was threatened by a potential loss of identity, but that literature was able to provide the memory of a sense of place, and collective memory could be retained. I argue that this memory took on a nostalgic form, helping to shape a collective identity based partially on a melancholy sense of common loss. But dwelling on nostalgic loss did nothing to help explain the loss of the colony, and thereby inadvertently contributed to a general unremembering, or refusal to remember, the painful final years of decolonization. A post-colonial analysis of her novels reveals that they were written from the viewpoint of colonial privilege and that, as such, they silenced alternative narratives and thereby further contributed to unremembering the painful process of decolonization. I conclude that Dermoût’s work helped to create a mnemonic community based on nostalgic remembering, but by trivialising or ignoring Indonesian nationalist aspirations, her work inadvertently served to unremember the reality of decolonization. I hope you'll go to this link and read my entire article, or download this version. I would love to hear back from you.