ABSTRACTS, SLAGMARK #75
Rikke Lie Halberg & Bertha Rex Coley: Tracing Heroes of the Danish West Indies Heroes and heroines of the Danish West Indies
There are not a lot of heroes connected to the history of the sugar colony in the Danish West Indies. From a Danish perspective, the story of the Danish governor general Peter von Scholten as the liberator of the enslaved African-Caribbeans of the West Indies has traditionally been the most established narrative. However, this narrative of the colonial power giving freedom to the enslaved, is being contested by competing narratives of heroes and heroines fighting for - and ultimately taking – their freedom. The article focuses on the narratives of the enslaved freedom fighter General Buddhoe, the plantation worker and rebel leader Mary Thomas and on the labour union leader David Hamilton Jackson, and advocates their canonisation even in a Danish context.
Keywords: The Danish West Indies, Colonialism, The uses of history, Heroism, Buddhoe, Mary Thomas, David Hamilton Jackson
George F. Tyson: Getting it straight: The contributions of Africans to the establishment of the town of Christiansted, St. Croix
It is the contention of this paper that Africans and Creoles of African descent were primarily responsible building much of the town of Christiansted during the Eighteenth Century. Danish/European aspirations, aesthetics and investment capital, certainly played their part, but these would have come to nothing without the skills, energy and talents of African laborers and tradesmen. The exceptional historic buildings that comprise the Christiansted Historic District stand as monuments to the outstanding Afro-Crucian craft tradition that materialized through their production. This craft tradition allowed enslaved and free Africans/Crucians to fashion their own aesthetic and it also enabled them and their families to endure and overcome enslavement and other adversities that characterized their lives under Danish rule. However there still need to be done more research that will set the historical record straight about the elaboration, human dimensions and cultural meanings of Christiansted’s and Frederiksted’s historic architecture.
Keywords: crucian craft tradition, St. Coix, Christiansted, Historic district, tradesmen
Emilie Paaske Drachmann: Toldbodens nye dronning – den danske kolonialismes im/materielle aftryk
Through the analysis of both the direct, the derived and the non-existing imprints of Danish colonialism, the article examines the collective memory of the Danish involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. In 2017, 100 years have passed since Denmark sold its three Caribbean islands to the United States. Since then the collective memory of the Danish-West Indian past has evolved into a patriotic narrative where the Danish territorial loss is framed as a consequence of the noble abolition of the slave trade and thus turned into a moral victory. In this narrative the emphasis is placed on Danes as being the sole active agents of history.
A potentially new imprint, represented in the article by the proposed memorial statue Queen Mary, presents an alternative version of the past by highlighting the Black resistance and power. In this inversion of the colonial hierarchies of power and representation it is made clear how the cityscape of Copenhagen and the Danish historiography are constantly reproducing the patriotic narrative. Hence, the colonial past is present in Danish society today but in a way that coincides with the Danish culture and thus goes unnoticed.
Keywords: memorials, collective memory, trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, new materialism, Danish West Indies
Vibe Nielsen: Dealing with a Difficult Past – How Danish and British museums disseminate the international colonial trade and its present legacies
The awareness in the Danish population of the problematic aspects of the colonial past has been limited for a long time. Although much has changed within recent years to change the general public awareness of Denmark’s role in the international colonial trade, this article argues that improvements can still be made. Through fieldwork at some of the biggest and most influential museums in the field of cultural, imperial and maritime history in Denmark and the United Kingdom the author analyses the different ways Danish and British museums are disseminating their countries’ involvement in the international colonial trade. The article argues that the differences observed in the museums can be seen in relation to the two countries’ different levels of multiculturalism in their populations, but also as a result of the fact that the international colonial trade was a bigger part of British history and therefore arguably has had a larger impact on the national identity in the United Kingdom than in Denmark.
Keywords: Museums, dissemination, colonialism, national identity, multiculturalism.
Pernille Østergaard Hansen: “Let’s Put the Background to the Foreground” - Nostalgia, tourism and the evocation of a Danish colonial past on U.S. Virgin Islands
When Denmark in 1917 sold the West Indies to the United States, official Danish colonialism came to an end. However, the transfer of the islands did not break Danish ties to its former colony. Instead, a group of Danish companies on the islands materialised the idea of an affective bond between the former colony and Motherland. Accordingly, ‘Island Danes’ on and off the islands expressed productive nostalgia and contributed to the creation of a space for tourism on the islands in the decades after 1917. For returnees to Denmark the nostalgia was often amplified. Through their heavy involvement in memory work, they came to form the national-romantic narrative of the colonial past in Danish public memory. Moreover, their efforts to remember – and remind Danes of - the history of Denmark on the islands, became entangled with the islands’ tourism strategy – developed by an inspired Danish tourist chief, and effected in part by the associations Friends of Denmark and The Danish West Indian Society. This way, by reproducing the past and staging a Danish culture on the islands, they indirectly attempted to take ownership over the history of the islands.
Keywords: Tourism, nostalgia, popular memory, postcolonial travel, Danish West Indies.
Nathalia Brichet & Frida Hastrup: In the wake – Liveability and Colonial Ecologies around the Harbour of St Thomas
Setting out to prepare an exhibition at the Maritime Museum in Denmark in commemoration of the centennial for the Danish selling of the Virgin Islands to the USA in 1917, we explore what follows in the wake of more than 200 years of Danish ownership of the West Indian Islands, as they were then termed. The harbour in Charlotte Amalie is the article’s central analytical unit, and with a point of departure in this harbour we discuss how the former colonial presence has left its marks on the islands’ ecologies and nurtured both wondrous and monstrous forms of life. We ask a rather open question: How do past industrial activities in and around the harbour of Charlotte Amalie on the island of St. Thomas emerge and ramify today? The guiding idea for the exhibition and for this article is to engage stories and objects from present day life in the Charlotte Amalie harbour made possible – directly or indirectly – by Danish presence, bearing its mark in one way or another.
Keywords: US Virgin Islands, ruins, colonial ecologies, harbour, exhibition, field work.