12 March 2020

New podcast uncovers traces of empire and colonization in contemporary society

Dr. Matthijs Kuipers en dr. Rachel Gillett. Foto: Femke Niehof
Dr Matthijs Kuipers and Dr Rachel Gillett. Photo: Femke Niehof

From the Dutch ‘rijsttafel’ to contested street names, from the Eurovision Song Contest to sports and racism, the new "Unsettling Knowledge" podcast reflects on how empire and colonization have shaped contemporary society and culture. 

Together, hosts Dr Rachel Gillett and Dr Matthijs Kuipers, speak with scholars, community members, and experts, to uncover traces of empire in the present and confront controversial topics head on with those involved. 

Not just academics

Gillett: “It is not just academics talking in jargon. For example, for our episode on Dutch Indo food we invited Josina Hillsland. She is a member of the Indo project, a group of Indos and Indo supporters who share the premise that their history and culture needs to be preserved. And one of our guests for the episode on contested street names is Rens Blijenberg, initiator of the Bitterzoete route in Lombok. The route goes along several streets to inform, raise awareness and start a conversation about colonial history. He cooperates with the municipality and gives guided tours. “ 

Hoek Kanaalstraat en Borneostraat in Lombok, Utrecht. Bron: Flickr/FaceMePLS
Corner Kanaalstraat and Borneostraat in Lombok, Utrecht. Source: Flickr/FaceMePLS

colonialism and decolonisation

The "Unsettling Knowledge" Podcast is produced by Utrecht University and is an initiative of the Decolonisation Group (part of Centre for Global Challenges). Kuipers: “The group is an interdisciplinary gathering of researchers from the fields of history, law, economics and political science who want to explore how colonialism and decolonisation shaped and is still shaping global and academic issues. We look at society today and daily life and how colonial history is reflected in it.” 

Racism in football

Ideas for new episodes are plentiful. “We will do an episode on racism in football and look at the Moreira case”, says Kuipers. In November, Excelsior attacker Ahmad Mendes Moreira was racially treated by part of the home crowd. The case was referred to the independent Disciplinary Commission. Gillett: “Heaps of players from former colonies are now playing in European national teams and sometimes they become the focus of racism and of racist chants from fans of opposing teams. These things effect a lot of people. We think it is urgent and necessary to talk about this.”  

Bron: Pixabay/Ben_Kerckx
Source: Pixabay/Ben_Kerckx

Eurovision Song Contest

An episode on the Eurovision Song Contest is also in the works. “You can see old imperial alliances in voting patterns” states Gillett. The fact that Jeangu Macrooy from Surinam is the Dutch candidate this year is very different than our candidate in 2018. “A guy in a cowboy hat standing in the middle with black people bowing around him. This would be something very interesting to discuss; what does this say about white innocence when the general audience does not seem to notice that this is problematic?”  

You can listen to the podcast on Soundcloud.