Accepted paper:

Villains, victims or heroes: negotiating loss and memory among Portuguese combatants of the colonial wars


Ana Margarida Sousa Santos (ICS-ULisboa)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the ways in which Portuguese ex-combatants create, position and represent themselves and consider the silence and invisibility that followed the end of the colonial wars.

Paper long abstract:

Portugal's late colonial wars have been silenced in national public memory until recently, but in individual memory they remain a formative experience in the country's modern history. Between 1961 and 1974 Portugal was engaged in three theatres of war in Lusophone Africa: Angola, Guinea Bissau, and Mozambique. Nearly one million Portuguese young men were mobilized to fight a war they did not understand and/or agree with. Upon returning home, especially in the aftermath of the 1974 revolution and the rapid political changes taking place in Portugal, the experiences of these young men and their families were silenced or left unacknowledged. Drawing on ethnographic work with Portuguese ex-combatants I will explore the ways in which they try to create, position and represent themselves in the Portuguese public realm. I will further highlight the temporality of silence, secrecy, visibility and openness and the ways in which this maps onto to Portuguese contemporary history.

panel P16
Veterans of liberation wars and counter-insurgencies: negotiating loss, integration, memory and trauma