Popular Representations of the Indian Ocean during the Independence Era (1950s-1970s)

deadline for submissions: 
January 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Université de La Réunion

Date: September 7-8-9, 2023

Conference venue: Université de La Réunion (La Réunion, France)

Conveners: Sonja Malzner (University of Luxembourg), Corinne Duboin and Frédéric Garan (University of Réunion Island)

This conference is held within the framework of a research project, “Popkult60” (Transnational popular culture - Europe in the 'long' 1960s), which involves three European universities: University of Luxembourg (Luxembourg), University of Saarbrücken (Germany), University of Jena (Germany). The event is organized in partnership with the Observatory of Indian Ocean Societies (OSOI) at the University of Réunion Island (Réunion, France).

Keywords: Indian Ocean, Eastern Africa, South Africa, popular cultures, media, politics, independence, decolonization, (post)colonialism, 1950s-1970s, tourism, intercultural relations



The independence era was associated with decolonization: a global cross-cultural process that forced the former European colonial powers to redefine themselves politically, economically, but also culturally. In the Indian Ocean, in East Africa and South Africa, this period extends from the 1950s to the 1970s and has had long-term effects. It is characterized by a preoccupation with the weight of the colonial past and by reflections on the "Third World" and the responsibility of Europe, which can also be found in the so-called "popular" media. Traditional images are questioned or - on the contrary - reaffirmed. The modes of representation of the Self and the Other are renegotiated, both in Europe and in the Global South.

The products of media culture represent an important vector for the contact of cultures and the transfer of knowledge on decolonization. Thus, popular culture plays a key role in the emergence of a postcolonial imaginary of the Indian Ocean, East Africa and South Africa, both in Europe and in the former colonies. Drawing from the established repertoire of colonial representations (Nederveen Pieterse, 1992), but also drawing inspiration from the new dynamics of the time, particularly in connection with the major social changes during the “long 1960s” (Siegfried, 2018), these media representations and “images of decolonization” (Ganapathy-Doré and Onlinga, 2013) in popular cultures (Mikowski and Philippe, 2015) have been little studied, especially in French-speaking and German-speaking contexts, where popular cultures have long suffered from a lack of recognition in academic circles, unlike in the United States or Great Britain.

The conference is understood as a contribution to postcolonial studies. It aims to analyze the interconnections between the political processes of decolonization and popular cultures. We will be particularly interested in the representations of the countries of the Indian Ocean, East Africa, and South Africa in the media landscape including popular literature, adventure fiction and travel literature, young adult literature, films and television production, popular music, magazines, new editions and adaptations or rewritings of old travelogues and colonial novels, as well as in travel media such as television documentaries, travel guides, advertising, or brochures. Participants in the conference are thus invited to draw from this popular fictional and documentary corpus, favoring (audio)visual sources and sources combining text and images.

In a resolutely interdisciplinary spirit, we invite scholars from various disciplines to address these issues and participate in the discussion: historians, geographers, literary scholars, mass media and arts scholars, anthropologists and sociologists. We also encourage early career researchers to submit a paper proposal.


Possible topics may include but are not limited to:

● Representations of the Other: Is there a 'decolonization' of the image of the Other (re-constructions of national, ethnic, gendered identities, etc.)?

● Construction of new imaginary spaces (referring to geographical, socio-cultural, economic, or natural spaces, animal-human relations)

● Emergence of new themes - or else continuity/reinforcement/return ‘to the sources’ and to mythology, even “the invention of tradition” (Hobsbawm and Ranger, 1983)

●Independence process and the question of the growing differentiation of new States/islands/nations of the Indian Ocean in popular representations

● Emergence of new tourism representations in Europe and in the Indian Ocean

● Cultural (re-)appropriations and empowerment in and through popular media

● Continuities, shifts and/or ruptures during the independence era and the process of decolonization

● Transfers of knowledge (culture, politics, society, etc.) and popular cultures

●Emotions and politics: (post-)colonial nostalgia, mourning, fear, hope, euphoria…

● Etc.

We invite contributors to send their proposals (a 250-word abstract and a 150-word biography) to the three conveners:





Deadline for submissions: January 15, 2023

Notification of acceptance: February 15, 2023

Languages: French, German, English


The time allotted for each presentation is 20 minutes (followed by a discussion).

A selection of articles will be published in 2024.

The conference will be an in-person event. Travel and accommodation costs will have to be covered by the participants. There will be no registration fee required.



Ganapathy-Doré, Geetha and Michel Onlinga (ed.), Images of decolonization/Images de la décolonisation, Cergy-Pontoise, SARI, 2013.

Hobsbawm, Eric and Terence Ranger, The Invention of Tradition, Past and Present Publications, Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Mikowski, Sylvie and Yann Philippe (ed.), “Pop Culture ! Les Cultures populaires aujourd’hui”, Revue Imaginaires n°19, 2015.

Nederveen Pieterse, Jan, White on Black. Images of Africa and Blacks in Western Popular Culture, New Haven/London, Yale University Press, 1992.

Siegfried, Detlef, 1968. Protest, RevolteGegenkultur, Ditzingen, Reclam, 2018.