(Ship)wrecked Empires: on the Transatlantic Image-nary of Ships and Shadows

  • Ana Lessa The University of Nottingham


Shipwreck, as much as navigation itself, has always fascinated,
amused and terrified generations of travellers both real and imaginary.
For the sailors as for the avid home-bound devourers of their tales and
travails, the ship inspires, inseparably, dreams and nightmares. The sea
is an ever-sacred and mysterious element generating popular widespread
fascination, and the stories told about it stain many a memory with images,
but nary an explanation, of mystery, survival and death.

I am analysing how, out of the ‘wreck’ of Colonialism, the subsequent
emergence from the depths of the Empire has raised in Portugal’s
ex-colonies spectres of both the sinking and the refloating of identities,
histories, and stories at large, through its depiction in literature and cinema, into a collective memory of the ship as a representation of the past, present and future of those same nations. In this context, the shipwreck is“a special figure for varied postcolonial memories” (Medeiros 2005), and negotiations.

Focusing primarily on Brazil and Angola in relation to the history
of the Portuguese expansion and its cultural, institutional and political
imprints (Lusotopia), I explore themes and trends from recent studies
such as Miguel Vale de Almeida’s O Atlântico Pardo (2006) – an “ironic
designation [alluding to Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic] to the world created
during the Portuguese empire, or more precisely, the vaster hegemonic
narrative of the supposed Portuguese miscegenation project” (109), and
the analogical connections between the ship which sinks and the once
afloat empire which has fallen.

Keywords: Post-colonialism; Lusophone Cinema; Transatlantic
triangle, Shipwreck, National Identity.
Aug 2, 2015
Como citar
LESSA, Ana. (Ship)wrecked Empires: on the Transatlantic Image-nary of Ships and Shadows. Babilónia - Revista Lusófona de Línguas, Culturas e Tradução, [S.l.], n. 13, aug. 2015. ISSN 1646-3730. Disponível em: <https://revistas.ulusofona.pt/index.php/babilonia/article/view/5158>. Acesso em: 17 nov. 2019.