Imperial Pasts in the EU’s Approach to the Mediterranean

Michelle Pace*, Roberto Roccu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Colonialism is silently inscribed in the genes of the European integration project since its origins. This is demonstrated by the incorporation of Algeria–as part of France–in the European Community and even more by its subsequent disappearance, leaving virtually no traces, following Algeria's independence in 1962. Despite the centrality of the Mediterranean to this foundational symptom, the literature on the role of memory in European integration has predominantly had an inward focus. Thus, it has failed to adequately grapple with Europe's colonial past and its influence on the EU's external relations with the Mediterranean. This Special Issue aims to fill this gap, and this introduction lays out the analytical framework informing the contributions to this collective endeavour. The centrality of the Mediterranean as an epistemic and geopolitical site of knowledge production is explored with reference to Nicolaïdis' suggestion that the EU's strategies of dealing with its colonial past have historically been characterized by amnesia, redirection and atonement. This Special Issue builds on this framework, and expands on it through an explicit interdisciplinary approach that brings to the fore some of the foundational sources of anticolonial politics and postcolonial studies, including the work of Fanon, Touré and Nkrumah. In doing so, it contributes to decentring the EU's view of the contemporary Mediterranean, while simultaneously providing a perspective from the social sciences on the emerging literature on the postcolonial Mediterranean, hitherto predominantly rooted in the humanities. Finally, we hope that this Special Issue also contributes to enabling a broader discussion on the politics of researching institutions oblivious of their own entanglements, direct or otherwise, with the histories, states, societies and peoples that they engage with today.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-685
Number of pages15
JournalInterventions International Journal of Postcolonial Studies
Issue number6
Early online date4 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2020


  • Mediterranean
  • EU
  • colonial past
  • empire
  • amnesia
  • atonement


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