PANEL 36: SOUNDING DANISH COLONIALISM: IMAGES, ARCHIVES AND THE PERFORMANCE OF MEMORY

Giersing, S. (Paneldeltager)

Aktivitet: Tale eller præsentationForedrag og mundtlige bidrag

Beskrivelse

Chair: Carsten Tage Nielsen, Roskilde University
1. Mette Kia Krabbe Meyer, Department of Maps, Prints and Photographs, e Royal Danish Library,
Copenhagen, Denmark: Changing viewpoints: Looking at family albums from the former Danish West
Indies
The Royal Danish Library holds a small collection of family albums from the former Danish colony in the West
Indies. Danish families staged themselves in their exquisitely furnished rooms in front of amateur photographers
or professionals around 1900. Afro-Caribbean servants were often included in the photographs.
The presentation places Danish family photography from the former colony within the established research field
which combines postcolonial theory with photography, affect, cultural heritage, and memory studies.
The presentation includes an early daguerreotype as well as albums from the pharmacist, Alfred Paludan-Müller
and the vicar, Povl Helweg-Larsen. It investigates the role of photography in memory making at the time but
centers on the present day reactions to and interpretation of the photographs – physical as well as digital.
Including reactions from the preparations of the exhibition Blind spots. Images of the Danish West Indies colony
and the project What Lies Unspoken, it underlines the importance of interdisciplinarity and of multivocality when
studying the understanding of Denmark’s colonial past through family photographs.
2. Sarah Giersing, Department of Maps, Prints and Photographs, e Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen,
Denmark: Listen to the view: Picture postcards from the former colony Danish West Indies
In her 2016 work, “Photomontage Series”, U.S. Virgin Islands artist La Vaughn Belle juxtaposes a snapshot from
her own family album with a photograph of an unknown child found in Danish archives. By this simple gesture, the
artist reminds us how the public archive can depersonalize people by representing them as examples rather than
individuals.
The historical photograph belongs to a large body of picture postcards produced in the Danish West Indies
between1900-1917 intended for consumption by a white, European middle class audience. An examination of the
photographic postcards reveals a visual language on the colonial subject as Other, permeated by racial
assumptions and social bias. Numerous pictures depict the Afro-Caribbean inhabitants doing manual labor and
petty business in the poor rural and urban landscapes of the Danish colony. They create a sort of tourist
ethnography in which anonymous subjects are arranged as views to entertain the gaze of a visitor to a foreign
culture.
Today these postcards are part of colonial archives but largely dismissed as irrelevant to a logocentric Danish
historiography that has focused almost entirely on the experience and perspectives of the Danes in the colony.
This paper explores how the postcards circulated as popular products that confirmed a view of the subject as a
stereotype radically different from and subordinate to the consumer. It reflects on how La Vaughn Belle’s
dislocation of the images into her artwork transforms the silent subjects of the archive into agents in an act of
counter-memory. It concludes with asking if the radical method of “listening to images” put forth by scholar Tina
M. Campt in her analysis of identification photography taken throughout the African diaspora, might also provide
new understanding of the subjects in the postcards.
3. Mathias Danbolt, University of Copenhagen, Denmark: The Unforgettables: Myths, Spirits, and Shattering
Memories in Justin F. Kennedy’s “Forgotten Friends: A Grey, or Maybe Purple Safari” (2017)
In Denmark travel agents continue to sell vacation packages to a place called “The Danish West Indies” – a place
that ceased to exist on March 31 1917, the year Denmark sold the three Caribbean islands of St. Croix, St.
Thomas and St. John to the USA. These vacation packages are often marketed with descriptions of the islands as
a “Lost Paradise” with “a fascinating Danish history” and “beautiful beaches”. While the 2017 centennial of the
transfer of the Danish West Indies to the US Virgin Islands has brought new critical attention to Denmark’s
colonial past, the Danish travel ads stand as a stark reminder of the role that nostalgia and romanticized
imaginaries have played in Danish colonial memory culture.
In this paper I analyze how the Cruzian performance artist Justin F. Kennedy intervenes in and problematizes
Danish colonial memory culture by means of performance. In the days around March 31 2017, Kennedy
performed a series of iterations of a three-hour “reverse safari performance tour” of Copenhagen called
"Forgotten Friends: A Grey or Maybe Purple Safari" (2017). Inspired by the “safari-tours” that Danish travel agents
sell to Danish tourists when visiting the “lost paradise” of US Virgin Islands, Kennedy’s performance guided the
audience around a place called “Eitherland”, a mythological science-fiction landscape inhabited by spirits and
ghosts haunting the streets of Copenhagen. Drawing on traditional Cruzian myths, oral histories and folksongs,
the performance created a space of encounter with “forgotten friends” from Danish colonial times – “friends” that
in Denmark have been ignored, neglected or erased from history: from Afro-Caribbean rebel leaders to mythical
figures and spiritual deities. In this paper I discuss how Kennedy’s performance responds to Danish colonial
memory culture by insisting on the importance of listening to the “colonial wounds” and practicing forms of
“decolonial healing” (Mignolo).
4. Astrid Nonbo Andersen, Danish Institute for International Studies: “ is isn’t South Africa” – on using the
analytical tools of memory studies and transitional justice in Greenland
In 2009, Greenland obtained self-government. Recent polls showed a majority of 75% in favor of future
independence. Last year the newly formed Greenlandic government appointed a minister of independence to
further speed-up the process. The severing of ties between Denmark and Greenland not only create a number of
tensions in every day Danish-Greenlandic relations, but also calls the past into question. The frictions echo a long
history of Danish-Greenlandic relations. In Danish versions the common past, Denmark plays the role of the
benevolent modernizer helping the backward Inuit forward with the best of intensions. In Greenlandic versions,
however the modernization is often recounted as a process which went too fast, was too dominated by Denmark
and which created collective traumas that still result in social problems and high suicide rates.
In 2014, a Greenlandic Reconciliation commission was established with the aim to reinterpret the modern
Greenlandic History, and “to create distance to the colonial past”. However, the use of concepts and models
created within the global field of transitional justice practices and other attempts to come to terms with the past
met staunch opposition. Not only in Denmark but also internally in Greenland. The word ‘reconciliation’ itself,
which made people think of the South African TRC, almost killed the initiative from the very beginning.
The lack of direct and open violence and that the modernization took place with the consent of the Greenlandic
elite, makes it very difficult for Greenlanders today to find a language in which to conceptualize the still ongoing
colonization of Greenland. In this regard, references to international parallels of colonialism often seems to work
counterproductively.
In my paper I will thus show the dilemmas in using the analytical tools provided by memory studies and
postcolonial studies in a Greenlandic context.
Periode14 dec. 2017
BegivenhedstitelMemory Studies Association : Second Annual Conference
BegivenhedstypeKonference
PlaceringKøbenhavn, Danmark
Grad af anerkendelseInternational