Analysing and coming to terms with colonialism is considered by many to be an historical topic, a past that has long been overcome. The Colonial Repercussions event series on the other hand sees colonialism as a European mental tradition that is connected in numerous way to the present and even more so to the future of Europe.
The European Enlightenment and thus the foundations of Western community of values – the canon of knowledge, the institutions, the collections – are substantively and extensively founded on colonial ruling structures. At the same time, the Enlightenment’s claim of universal validity, which is still maintained to this day, has led to the continued hierarchisation of cultures. For this reason, a critique of its own certainties is essential for the continuation of the Enlightenment.
Frantz Fanon, a leading thinker in the field of decolonisation, pointedly described Europe as a "creation of the colonies". In fact, the former colonies and Europe are so closely intertwined that their respective historical developments cannot be considered in isolation. A future-oriented revision of Europe is unthinkable without this historical reappraisal. After all, it is not merely a question of redefining relations with Africa, Asia, the Arab world or Latin America, but also of understanding the migration of millions of people from the former colonies to Europe as a repercussion of colonial rule. Both they and their cultures have long been part of Europe.
A crucial foundation of colonialism is the European understanding of cultural superiority. This constellation, which is closely linked to racism, still impacts on the present day and, despite the emancipation of the colonies from European paternalism, continues to be the core of populist movements. Everyday racism, the lingering violence of heteronomy, present a serious problem for millions of Europeans who are discriminated against because of the colour of their skin, their name, their religion or their traditions.
European colonialism – as the other side of the European Enlightenment and an expression of European hubris, a form of rule over the cultures outside of Europe – is an existential part of modernity and demands systematic examination, as it continues to impact on the contemporary fields of cultural conflict. In particular, theoretical approaches from the field of cultural studies, post-colonialism and decolonisation have triggered a new process of enlightenment in European cultural sciences and arts, which more and more institutions, exhibitions and festivals are addressing. Now for the first time, the topic of colonialism is being addressed in depth at the Akademie der Künste, combined with the desire to initiate a sustainable process of transformation in the reappraisal of the impact of colonial legacies that can also effect a decolonisation for the institution itself.