Narratives of Loss, War and Trauma: Cultural Memory and the End of the Portuguese Empire.

The events related to the end of the Portuguese colonial empire – the colonial wars and the mass exodus from Africa – are major events in contemporary Portuguese society. However, the end of the Portuguese empire and the dramas that accompanied it remain little studied.


What consequences did the end of the empires have for both the colonized populations and also for the populations of the colonizing metropolis?

How are the traumatic events related to late colonial history in postcolonial Portugal dealt with, narrated and incorporated?

What did the rupture caused by the abrupt end of the Portuguese colonial empire mean for the constitution of postcolonial subjectivity?

What images of colonial times do these postcolonial subjects retain and how do these representations influence the issues of contemporary immigration, racism, and multicultural citizenship?


Research Agenda

Benefiting from public funding through the Foundation for Science and Technology (IF/01530/2014), this project has an innovative research agenda based at the intersection of the social sciences and the humanities, benefiting from the contributions of anthropology, history, memory studies and postcolonial studies.

The objective of the project is to compile, analyze and exhibit memorable objects and narratives about events related to Portuguese colonization and decolonization, focusing particularly on the event of the “return” of nationals to the metropolis in the context of African independence. These memory narratives include personal testimonies, family biographies, fictional narratives (literature, film, and performance), and official public memoirs, through which issues such as war, violence, loss, and trauma are expressed and incorporated in the social field.

Based on archive research, witness interviews and the active participation of the people who are the subject of research, the project aims to:

  • construct an archive of images, documents and objects, made available to the scientific community and thereby help to increase knowledge on the subject;
  • be an instrument of public history by seeking communicative ways to disseminate and publicize the archive in society in general, by designing exhibitions (physical and/or virtual), producing documentaries, and issuing materials for the general public;
  • promote the development of a critical memory of colonialism and decolonization in Portugal and in postcolonial Europe, thus contributing to comparative research on the subject.


Research Team

Coordination: Elsa Peralta, Researcher, Center for Comparative Studies, CEC.

Ana Barrinha, Research Fellow, MA candidate in Anthropology, Center for Comparative Studies (CEC)
Bruno Góis, Research Fellow, Doctoral candidate in Anthropology, Institute of Social Sciences (ICS-UL)
Joana Oliveira, Doctorate Fellow FCT, Institute of Social Sciences (ICS-UL)

– André Amalio, Artistic Director, PhD candidate at the University of Roehampton, UK
– Christoph Kalter, Assistant Professor at the Center for Global History, Freie Universität Berlin
– Isabel Ferreira Gould, Independent Researcher
– Nuno Domingos, Researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences (ICS-UL)