This article addresses the long-term impact of colonialism on Europe’s internal structures and on its self-positioning in a global context. Using the 2015 refugee crisis as a focal point and centering the German example, the author explores the complex relationship between memory discourses and visions of Germany’s and Europe’s postunification future. The author argues that the erasure of colonial violence from the continent’s collective memory has a direct, negative impact on its ability to let go of a racialized identity that is in increasing tension with Europe’s actual multiracial and multireligious composition. The article traces this dynamic around the example of the non-European collections in Berlin’s Museum Island and the future Humboldt Forum, conceptualized as the world’s largest “universal museum.” The narratives through which this art is integrated into Europe’s cultural heritage are in stark contrast to those that simultaneously defined the refugees, who arrived from the same region in which the art originated, as fundamentally different and threatening. The narratives intersect in the Multaqa initiative, which offers Arab language tours of Museum Island to refugees, and in the controversy around the site of the Humboldt Forum and the colonial art it is meant to house.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.