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The Transnational Remembrance of Slavery: The Dutch Atlantic Gert Oostindie KITLV, Leiden, the Netherlands explosion of public remembrance background contrasts within the Caribbean the Dutch Atlantic background to this new culture of remembrance fin de siècle engagement with past horrors

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The transnational remembrance of slavery the dutch atlantic l.jpg

The Transnational Remembrance of Slavery: The Dutch Atlantic

Gert Oostindie

KITLV, Leiden, the Netherlands


Explosion of public remembrance l.jpg
explosion of public remembrance

  • background

  • contrasts within the Caribbean

  • the Dutch Atlantic


Background to this new culture of remembrance l.jpg
background to this new culture of remembrance

  • fin de siècle engagement with past horrors

  • Holocaust as a central point of reference

  • decolonisation, contribution of new nations to debates about colonialism & slavery

  • divergent trajectories

    • Latin America & Caribbean

    • U.S.

    • Europe

    • Africa


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contrasts within the Caribbean

  • commonalities & heterogeneity

  • pan-Caribbean vs. local remembrance

  • slavery in nation-building

    • ambivalent perspectives on Africa

    • ethnic plurality

    • political priorities

    • economic priorities

  • ‘Black Atlantic’ and U.S. models


The dutch atlantic l.jpg
the Dutch Atlantic

  • post-1970 Dutch Caribbean exodus

  • population figures:

    • Suriname ca. 450,000

    • Neth. Antilles & Aruba ca. 300,000

  • ‘Caribbean’ community in the Netherlands

    • total ca. 750,000

    • national, ethnic and linguistic heterogeneity

  • ideological consequences


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colonial migration & metropolitan awareness

  • Postcolonial migrants have been instrumental in raising metropolitan awareness of the Dutch history of Dutch Atlantic slavery as well as metropolitan willingness to contribute to remembrance.


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a paradoxical success

  • This postcolonial pressure serves to strengthen the metropolitan role in defining, preserving and remembering the history of Dutch Atlantic slave trade and slavery.


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divergent remembrances

  • Strong national differences between the former colonies persist, also in the commemoration of slavery.

  • This applies to Suriname and the Antilles, but equally to former and shorter-lived Dutch colonies and trading posts such as Ghana, Brazil, Guyana, Manhattan U.S.A.

  • And, indeed, to the Caribbean community in the Netherlands: extra dimension to the challenge of a ‘national’ monument.


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next steps: consensus

  • There is a wide consensus over the question of what historical data need to be preserved, what oral testimonies need to be recorded, what kind of research needs to be done, what kind of educational materials need to be developed.

  • http://www.kitlv.nl/atlantic.html

  • http://awad.kitlv.nl/awad/


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next steps: conflicting views

  • There is significant dispute over interpretations, ownership, ‘Black’/‘African-’ vs. ‘White’/‘European’ interpretations, and so on. Evident in the Netherlands, e.g., in competition between immigrant actors deploying ethnic identity politics and prominent institutions often rooted in the colonial era struggling to redefine their position and role. The divides between these two circuits and their constituencies are still deep.


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