Almost perfect returns: ethnography of war memory in Angola (1971-1973)

Leading researcher: Maria José Lobo Antunes
Research group: Circulation and Place-Making
Type of project: Doctoral research
Status: Concluded
Keywords: Portuguese colonial war | War memory | Social memory

Main institution: CRIA
Participant institutions: n.a.
Funding: FCT
Reference: SFRH/BD/46989/2008
Starting date: 01-01-09

More information:


Between 1961 and 1974 Portugal fought a war in Africa. Forty years since the revolution that overthrew the regime, the pluricontinental nation in the name of which more than 800 thousand men were sent to Africa has ceased to exist. This war, which has never officially been declared, still survives in the memory of those who served it. The aim of this dissertation is to contribute to the understanding of the process through which war memory is constructed and negotiated. Seeing as it is impossible for one to reliably reproduce the lived moment, the knowledge of the past depends on the creation of imperfect approximations of what has ceased to exist. Memory is not stationary or unalterable, nor is it irreducibly individual. It is constantly recreated through the retrospective perception of agents – individual or collective – who at every moment confer intelligibility to the past through the negotiation of the terms through which it can be formulated. War memory constitutes a privileged locus for the analysis of the process through which the private world of personal remembering and the public world of social memory meet, providing the cultural idioms with which personal experiences can be interrogated and inscribed in vaster public narratives. An etnography of war memory was built around the story of Portuguese army unit in Angola between 1971 and 1973. This ethnography of war memory articulates several places and moments in time, crossing the multiple scales in which memory lives. The personal memories of the soldiers of this unit were confronted with other narratives on the same fragment of the colonial war (the military institutional report, the literary narrative of Antonio Lobo Antunes, who served as a medical second lieutenant), and with the public rhetorics which, during the Estado Novo (Second Republic) and in contemporary Portugal, supply the ideas and the words with which people are able to think about themselves, the country and, indeed, the world. It was on this journey between diverse scales and moments of time that war memory was analysed – a composite construction which articulates the personal dimension of subjectivity with the social dimension of the public narratives that draw the limits within which war, colonialism, nation, past and present can be imagined.

Researchers from CRIA

IDNamePositionProjTitleProject typeStatus
pub79*João LealSupervisorproj113*Almost perfect returns: ethnography of war memory in Angola (1971-1973)Doctoral researchConcluded
pub127*Maria José Lobo AntunesResearch scholarproj113*Almost perfect returns: ethnography of war memory in Angola (1971-1973)Doctoral researchConcluded
Other researchers