Geographies of cultural production, cultural memory and commemoration.
Emmanuel Akwasi Adu-Ampong has been awarded an Academy Early Career Partnership by KNAW to organise an interdisciplinary event. The event of Emmanual will take place 1-2 June in Amsterdam.
We are currently living in a society in flux where the stories we tell about our shared past can bring us together or push us apart. Stories matter, and tourism can provide stories of connection particularly in relation to heritage and memories. Arguably, tourism is the only contemporary site outside of formal education where civic learning about other times, places and people takes place. However, whilst the story-telling and worldmaking potential of tourism can provide new narratives or reinforce caricatured imaginaries of the past it may actively erase other times, places and people.
The topic of slavery heritage and memory is of increasing contemporary significance. On 19 December 2022, Dutch PM Mark Rutte apologised for the Netherlands’ role in slave trading. This national apology opened up new spaces for societal discussions in the context of the declared National Slavery Memorial Year (1 July 2023 – 1 July 2024) aimed at increasing knowledge of the history, heritage and lasting legacies of slavery. This conference contributes to expanding societal knowledge on these issues, particularly given that 2023 is the 150 year anniversary of the formal abolition of slavery in Dutch Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. This conference provide a ‘first-step’ towards a much needed transdisciplinary dialogue in Dutch academia about the relevance of tourism studies in debates on slavery and colonial heritage and memory. Tourism is often the sustaining force that activates heritage sites. This conference contributes to increasing academic and societal knowledge by exploring tourism-related cultural productions centred around slavery heritage inspired by the need of cultivating stories that bring us together as opposed to feeding polarisation.
In this transdisciplinary conference explores the conceptual, practical and policy questions of the role of tourism (studies) in activating the memories of slavery and colonial heritage and how best to address its contemporary implications in society. The driving question can be stated as: how does tourism (stories) offer a conceptual grasp on the complexity of the memories of the slavery past while building emotional connection between the past, present and future of a shared heritage?
Using tourism’s political and cultural memory making work as the entry point, we will examine the extent to which a shared approach to interpretation and stories of slavery heritage is possible, desirable and achievable across places. Through a series of roundtable discussions between academics and practitioners and two keynotes, this conference will address the challenges and transformative potentials in developing tourism stories, museum exhibitions and other cultural (re)productions in relation to the slavery and colonial past. In particular, the discussion will focus on the Ghana-Suriname-Netherlands triangle through embodied experiences. In the afternoon of Thursday 1 June, we will participate in ‘Memre-Waka’ (memory walk) which is a memorial procession along Amsterdam’s canal houses with slavery connected history ending up in front of the Amsterdam Mayor’s official residence. Memre Waka signifies the start of Keti Koti (Broken Chains) Month for the commemoration and celebration of the abolition of slavery. On the second day of the conference of Friday 2 June, we will take part in the Black Heritage Amsterdam Tour that informs, inspires and educate through a boat tour along Amsterdam canals and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, to explore the city’s ‘hidden history’ of early Black presence, colonial symbols on canal houses, national monuments and museums.
The debates around heritage and memory, in particular slavery and colonial heritage and memory calls for insights from a diversity of disciplines and societal actors. During this conference we bring together societal actors (policy makers, cultural makers and entrepreneurs, and museum curators) in the fields of tourism, memory-making, museums and heritage management with scholars from cultural geography, (critical) tourism studies, (cultural) memory studies, (critical) heritage studies, cultural studies, media studies and historical studies. In addition the conference is open to scholars from adjacent fields such as literary studies, performance studies, art and media studies as well as the general public with an interest in the issues under discussion. The added value of this transdisciplinary approach is to arrive at cutting edge research questions in mapping, storytelling and the cultural performances of slavery and colonial heritage tourism and to address pressing societal concerns in this area.
This conference is organised in the context of an ongoing NWO VENI project (The embodied absence of the past: slavery, heritage and tourism in the Ghana-Suriname-Netherlands triangle). The conference is made possible through funding support from the NWO (Dutch National Research Council) Veni grant award (VI.Veni.201S.037) and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) Early Career Partnership 2023 Grant award (KNAW WF/1089: KNAWECP2023-03) in addition to various forms of support many individuals and organisations.
We warmly welcome you to this conference and look forward to two days of engaging dialogue, agenda-setting ideas, learning and networking. Click here to view the program.
Emmanuel Akwasi Adu-Ampong
Cultural Geography Research Group
Wageningen University & Research