‘To fight yesterday’s forgetting, is to fight racism today’: Holocaust and colonial memory cultures in British and French anti-racism, c. 1980-2001.


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores British and French anti-racist memory culture from 1980 to 2001. Specifically, it explores the complex development, articulation and tentative intersections between Holocaust and colonial memory. Taking a largely textual approach through anti-racist print media, it makes the case that anti-racists on both sides of the Channel possessed profoundly historicist approaches to their contemporary activism against racism and wielded the memory of past instances of racism as a challenge to received national narratives of the past. The differing national experiences of the Holocaust, the Second World War, the Vichy regime as well as the shared experience of colonialism contributed to the formation of highly supple memory cultures. While there was not always consensus over the prioritisation or interpretation of certain memories – indeed, in some cases, anti-racists were bitterly divided over competing memories – there was nevertheless a shared belief in the value of the past in teaching and warning the present of the consequences of racism. Compared to Holocaust memory, anti-racist colonial memory was highly fragmented over the case of the 1980s, with the legacy of the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962) largely serving as the nodal point around which colonial memory revolved in France. In the British case, colonial memory was more fragmented still, though by the 1990s it underwent some tentative negotiation. While primarily national in scope throughout the 1980s, anti-racists on both sides of the Channel underwent a ‘European turn’ in the early 1990s which had profound implications for the development of their complex memory cultures. History and memory served a pedagogical and didactic function in which the racism of the present could be interpreted and challenged through reference to the past.
Date of Award15 Apr 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorDANIEL GORDON (Director of Studies) & JAMES RENTON (Supervisor)


  • Anti-racism
  • Memory
  • Holocaust
  • European colonialism
  • Historical memory

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