Decolonizing Europe: History, Memory, Redress

With the Center for the Study of Slavery & Justice at Brown University
Take a fresh approach to current debates surrounding notions of citizenship and belonging within postcolonial, post-Cold War Europe. In this course, Amsterdam is approached as an open air laboratory, with students studying historical and contemporary dynamics of representation and memory.
Course levelAdvanced Bachelor (Honours students)/Master/PhD
Session 1
30 June to 14 July 2018
Recommended course combination
Session 2: Hands-on Anthropology and Ethnographic Storytelling, The Heart of Capitalism: Amsterdam 1600-Present 
Session 3: Impact of an Empire
Co-ordinating lecturersProf. Susan Legêne and Prof. Anthony Bogues
Other lecturersDr Dienke Hondius, Prof. Wayne Modest and guests
Form(s) of tuitionInteractive seminar, lectures, fieldwork
Form(s) of assessmentPresentation with handout
3 credits
Contact hours45
Tuition fee€1150
Primarily students and professionals in the field of Humanities and Social Sciences, although interested participants from other backgrounds are also welcome. Advanced Bachelor students are welcome, but only Honours students. The course is highly intensive and demands active participation and strong motivation. If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please let us know. Our courses are multi-disciplinary and therefore are open to students and professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds.
This course focuses on the works of Caribbean and African diasporic thinkers: scholars, writers and artists who have engaged critically with European intellectual traditions, formulating distinctive positions that constitute an alternative genealogy for questions of citizenship and belonging in Europe. By homing in on their works, you gain a deeper understanding of the global interactions at key historical moments that shaped contemporary Europe. Recent developments in Amsterdam, a city deeply affected by the Holocaust, a long colonial history and the Netherlands relationship with other difficult histories are explored in a program full of engaging meetings and discussions.

Active participation is an important aspect of this course. In both plenary and workshop sessions, you engage in conversations on Europe’s colonial legacies, focusing specifically on archives and museums but also addressing critical debates in the history of thought, the story of the slave trade, enslavement and colonialism, post-colonial and labour migration, urban identities, race and “post-racialism”, anti-Semitism, diaspora, citizenship and belonging. The course seeks to provide alternatives histories and present different archives as ways to think about the past and the present .

Decolonizing Europe is offered jointly by the Global History, Heritage and Memory programme at VU Amsterdam and the Center for Slavery and Justice at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Its co-organizer is the Research Center for Material Culture of the Dutch National Museum of World Cultures.

At the end of the course you:

  • Understand the changing European polity and its links to European colonial, postcolonial and migration histories, including the histories of slavery.
  • Understand Amsterdam’s role as a major European urban centre, both historically and in the present, including issues of citizenship and belonging here.
  • Are familiar with radical African/Caribbean diasporic thought as part of broader anticolonial and postcolonial critique, and how this thought has been important to refiguring notions of citizenship and belonging in Europe.
  • Are familiar with the ideas of Dutch Caribbean intellectuals in relation to broader Black and Caribbean radical intellectual thought.
  • Are familiar with the works of Dutch artists and other creative thinkers whose work addresses contemporary Europe.
  • Are familiar with theoretical concepts about reframing the archive, both within the city of Amsterdam and more generally.
  • Are familiar with the methodology of a various practices of alternative histories.
Visits to the Tropenmuseum (Dutch National Museum of World Cultures) in Amsterdam, Museum Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology) in Leiden and Black Heritage Amsterdam Tours, as well as fieldwork trips. Besides this several evening programs are included.
Key papers and other resources will be provided at the start of the course.
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