‘Hier rust Cornelis Rietvield:’ declares a 17th century epitaph engraved on a tombstone at the Dutch Cemetery of Chinsurah, Bengal. It highlights the transoceanic life-arcs of various Dutchmen who crossed the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in the service of the Dutch East India Company. In this talk, I use the memorial evidence for various ‘Cornelises’ in parts of the world that are either no longer Dutch, or have erased their historical Dutch connections from popular memory. Through a consideration of such evidence, supplemented by a consideration of other material and intangible traces of Dutch presence in India, Indonesia, Surinam, and Ghana, I will explore creolization: as resulting from births as well as deaths in new lands, as a cultural and economic process, as a heuristic tool to grasp together the Indian and Atlantic Ocean worlds, and, finally, as postcolonial memory-making. My overall intention will be to demonstrate, through the talk, the added value that thus ‘tracking the Dutch’ can bring to the current state of art in Postcolonial Studies.
Ananya Jahanara Kabir is Professor of English Literature at King’s College London. She researches the intersection of the written text with other forms of cultural expression within acts of collective memorialization and forgetting. Through an ERC Advanced Grant (2013-2018), she led an interdisciplinary investigation into African-heritage social dance and music across language worlds. She spent 2019 at the Freie Universität, Berlin, as a recipient of the Humboldt Forschungspreis (Humboldt Prize), The author of Territory of Desire: Representing the Valley of Kashmir (2009) and Partition’s Post-Amnesias: 1947, 1971, and Modern South Asia (2013), she is currently writing ‘Alegropolitics: connecting on the Afromodern Dance Floor.’ Her new research projects explore further the concepts of transoceanic creolization through cultural production across the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds.
Tomb of Cornelius Rietveld, Dutch Cemetery, Chinsurah, Bengal’ – Wikimedia commons.
Bodhisattwa [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
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