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Shadows from the past: Unstable memories and collective trauma in Black Earth Rising 1

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Among the many important issues addressed by contemporary European crime drama production, one can find the construction of collective and individual memory, oftentimes linked to major traumatic events of the twentieth century. This article focuses on Black Earth Rising, a UK production created by Hugo Blick. The series’ protagonist, Kate Ashby (Michaela Coel), is a legal investigator, orphaned during the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda and later adopted by a renowned British prosecutor in international criminal law. Black Earth Rising revolves around Kate’s investigations, which in turn lead her back to Rwanda, where she faces not only trauma and shadows of her childhood in Rwanda, but also the tragic violence that shaped the history of her country. Considering the relationship between memory, processing trauma and the crime genre, this article examines different aspects of Blick’s TV series. More precisely, the article explores the crime drama’s utilization of investigation as a narrative tool that guides the viewer through the history of the Rwandan genocide, the role of its female protagonist and the function of reoccurring black-and-white animated sequences. In this analysis, crime drama, in part due to its widespread popularity, is framed as an important tool that allows for the construction of shared space, in which mediated cultural encounters and collective memory can take place.

Keywords: Black Earth Rising; Rwanda genocide; collective memories; crime drama; female detective; trauma studies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: 000000041765078XLink Campus University 2: 0000000419370319Università della Calabria

Publication date: October 1, 2021

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  • The Journal of European Popular Culture investigates the creative cultures of Europe, present and past. Exploring European popular imagery, media, new media, film, music, art and design, architecture, drama and dance, fine art, literature and the writing arts, and more, the journal is also of interest to those considering the influence of European creativity and European creative artefacts worldwide.
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