Trauma of De-Colonization Project

Trauma of De-colonization Project  ~ A Conference and Book Project

Author’s Workshop – Friday, May 5 & Saturday, May 6, 2017

Yale University, New Haven, CT

Workshop Program


Ron Eyerman, Yale Sociology

Giuseppe Sciortino, Trento University


Rui Pena Pires, Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology, University Institute of Lisbon

Sung Choi, Bentley College

Akiko Hashimoto, Portland State University

Gert Oostindie, Leiden University, The Netherlands

Pamela Ballinger, University of Michigan

With Generous Support From:

The Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund

European Studies Council at The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center

for International and Area Studies at Yale

Yale Center for Cultural Sociology

Post- Colonial Trauma: A Comparative Study of Return

Our aim with this project is to study and compare the effects of post-colonial migration after World War 2 in six countries, Belgium, Portugal, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Japan.  The main concern lies with those who returned to their respective countries as a result of failed colonial projects.  We will focus on these countries, whose selection will be explained below, but will make reference to other important European imperial powers, such as Britain, Spain and Germany, as we elaborate the historical context in which postwar decolonization occurred.  As with any historical comparative project we hope that individual differences along with international similarities will be uncovered.  We will use cultural trauma as our prime theoretical point of reference, while at the same time framing our analysis within European migration studies.

The Context of Decolonization

We will use discussions of decolonization along with the framework of cultural trauma (Alexander, et al 2004; Eyerman, et al. 2013) to uncover and elaborate the levels and layers of this involuntary migration, with focus on its consequences for the individuals and collectivities involved.   

In its dictionary definition, decolonization is more or less restricted to the struggle for independence and the liberation from colonial domination. We seek a broader understanding where the term can also incorporate migration flows. Where colonialization has generally involved the flow of people between a home country and its colonies, decolonization involves a reversal, where migration flows only in one direction, from a former colony to the home country.  Colonization is often celebrated as a signifier of raised status for a nation; decolonization is entwined with loss and is often encased in trauma.