Book: ‘Postcolonial People: The Return from Africa and the Remaking of Portugal’ by Christoph Kalter – Editor’s note


Posted June 18, 2022.

Christoph Kalter examines how European nations reconstituted themselves at the end of the empire, through the story of colonists “returning” from Portuguese Africa.

Having built much of their wealth, power and identity on imperial expansion, how did the Portuguese and, by extension, Europeans manage the end of the empire? Postcolonial People explores the processes and consequences of decolonization through the stories of the more than half a million Portuguese settlers who, after the Carnation Revolution of 1974, “returned” from Angola, Mozambique and other parts of Portugal‘s crumbling empire back to their country of origin and citizenship, itself undergoing significant upheaval. Examining for the first time comprehensively the history and memory of returnees, this book contributes to debates on colonial racism and its legacies. It studies migration, the “refugee” and integration to expose an apparent paradox: the end of empire and the return migrations it triggered belong to a global history of the 20th century and are shaped by transnational dynamics . However, they did nothing to dethrone the primacy of the nation-state. On the contrary, they reinforced it.

“Christoph Kalter’s in-depth analysis of those who ‘returned’ to Portugal from Africa during decolonization poses critical questions about race, racism and postcolonial nationality and interrogates persistent Lusotropical colonial myths. our time of resurgent imperial memoirs and controversies, Postcolonial People‘s lucid insights make it timely and invaluable reading. Elizabeth ButtnerUniversity of Amsterdam

“Decolonization not only changed the map of the world, but also had profound repercussions on European societies. Surely the definitive study of the half million retornados arriving in Portugal at the end of the empire in 1975, Postcolonial People makes a fascinating contribution to the history of migration, public memory and postcolonial Europe. — Sebastien ConradFree University of Berlin

‘Postcolonial People provides an innovative account of Europe’s last great decolonization, focusing on the retornados who migrated to the Portuguese metropolis. Kalter’s study explores the productive space created by the gaps between protagonists’ understandings of their experiences and legal categories such as refugee and citizen. In lively and accessible prose, Kalter demonstrates how transnational migration processes from the former colonies of Portugal and international humanitarian responses have paradoxically helped to entrench notions of nationhood, even as they transformed the very meanings and boundaries of this national community. Extensive, meticulously researched, relatively informed and conceptually sharp, Postcolonial People breaks new ground in its analysis of how the simultaneous end of empire and authoritarian rule in Portugal reconfigured what it meant to be Portuguese in legal and socio-cultural terms. — Pamela BallingerUniversity of Michigan

“It is original and innovative work, empirically sound and analytically sophisticated. It corrects several unsubstantiated historiographical and public assertions, offering a convincing assessment of the massive immigration from the former Portuguese colonies in Africa as a consequence of the interrelated dynamics of democratization, after the Revolução dos Cravos of 1974, and formal decolonization. . Moreover, it contributes to a richer study of European trajectories of decolonization and their multifaceted and lasting effects. — Miguel Bandeira JeronimoUniversity of Coimbra

About the Author

Christopher Kalter is assistant professor at the Center for World History at the Freie Universität Berlin. He obtained his doctorate in modern history from the same university in 2010. His research focuses on decolonization after 1945 and postcolonial societies in Europe, particularly France and Portugal. His first book was published by Cambridge UP in 2016 (originally published in German in 2011). Entitled ‘The Discovery of the Third World: Decolonization and the Rise of the New Left in France, c. 1950-1976», it deals with the articulation between the rise of the concept of “Third World” and that of a new radical left in France. Currently, Christoph Kalter is pursuing his interest in postcolonial Europe in a second draft of a book titled ‘Postcolonial people. Migration and Decolonization in Portugal, c. 1974-2014,’ which addresses the history of decolonization in metropolitan France through a focus on the so-called returns.

Book Details

Title: Postcolonial people: The return from Africa and the Remasking of portugal

Author: Christopher Kalter

Editor:Cambridge University Press

Publication date: May 26, 2022

Language: ‎English

Hardcover: ‎340pp


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