6 October 2017 from 13:15 to 17:00

Seminar series Spores of empire

Seminar on Dutch culture and its imperial archive: Media

De Vliegende Hollander helpt Indie bevrijden
De Vliegende Hollander helpt Indie bevrijden, Collection Stadarchief Amsterdam (1945)

The seminar series Spores of Emire: Dutch Culture and its imperial archive addresses specific manifestations and media of cultural transfer in the Netherlands from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century. The first seminar is devoted to media.

Speakers are Dr Gerda Jansen Hendriks, Dr Vincent Kuitenbrouwer and Dr Jacqueline Bel. 

Consecutive seminars will be devoted to book culture, cultural and social organizations, and material culture. The talks will be published in a collective volume.

  • December 2017: Books and Literature
  • March 2018: Material Culture and Cultural Institutions
  • June 2018: Social Organizations and Imperial Consciousness
  • September 2018: Home Imperial Cultures: a comparative perspective

A New Dutch Imperial History?

In 2012, the Royal Dutch Historical Society organized a conference on ‘A New Dutch Imperial History?’, including the question mark. One of the themes addressed in the conference was the issue of colonial cultures in the Netherlands: the way colonialism has affected and influenced Dutch society. Although the proceedings of the conference contain various good examples of colonial cultures in the Netherlands, we still have a long way to go in order to assess the dynamics and impact of cultures of colonialism in the Netherlands.

This stands in sharp contrast to, in particular, research in Great Britain, where much groundbreaking research has been done over the last twenty years in to the influences of empire on cultures in the British isles, on the tropes of popular imperialism, and of the cultural entanglement of metropole and empire.

Stationsgebouw met het bord van de Indie - vlucht
Stationsgebouw met het bord van de Indie - vlucht, Archve Luchthaven Schiphol

Dutch colonial cultures

The relation between colonialism and the evolution of cultures and identities in the Netherlands is a pertinent issue, which has sparked a series of heated debates in (social) media, concerning the origins and resilience of Dutch racism, colonial inspirations of Dutch folklore, and specific (both nostalgic and critical) references to the colonial past.

Research into Dutch colonial cultures has been fragmented and haphazard. This is surprising given the fact that the colonies were deemed essential to the survival of the Netherlands as a small nation. What is the state of Dutch colonial amnesia? Is the Netherlands blind to its colonial genealogies? How was that in the past? How serious were the complaints by repatriates and migrants from the colonies that the Dutch were generally indifferent to its colonies? How do memories of empire work? Or is Dutch colonial culture not related to specific Dutch experiences, but part of a more generalized Western imperial culture?

Dutch colonial archive

Recently, Dutch anthropologist Gloria Wekker argued in her White innocence that the Netherlands and the Dutch have a colonial cultural archive, which informs and directs their world views and their attitudes towards the non-West and non-Western immigrants. Wekker’s concern was not to trace the dynamics or mechanic of the formation of this cultural archive; she dealt primarily with its present-day manifestations. It is to historians to explore the genealogies in order to gain a clearer insight into the if, why and how of the Dutch colonial archive.

Echoes of empire

The importance of this programme is not in the cataloguing of manifestations of empire per se, but of fathoming the impact of empire on the wider culture of the Netherlands. Speakers will explore the depths and width of, especially, the ‘second-hand’ colonial experience. They will listen to the echoes of empire, look for the spores of the imperial imagination, overt and veiled, direct and indirect.


The workshops are an initiative of Matthijs Kuipers (European University Institute, Florence and Utrecht University) and Remco Raben (Utrecht University and University of Amsterdam).

Start date and time
6 October 2017 13:15
End date and time
6 October 2017 17:00