Let’s introduce: about me, about the blogs, about the topics
First of all, before I begin writing about any topic, I would like to introduce both myself and what I will be writing about.
My name is Tamar, and during my internship at the Mapping Slavery project group, I will be blogging here weekly. I am a 22-year old Jewish Dutch student at the University of Utrecht, where I have finished my psychology bachelor’s degree, and am currently finishing the Gender Studies master’s degree.
Topics I will tackle range from education of colonial history, to how this history has made an impact on our modern-day lives to how we should deal with this history. I will be trying to answer question from an interdisciplinary perspective, meaning I will not only focus on a viewpoint from one discipline, but will be combining for instance feminist theory with philosophical theory, historical perspectives and literary theories. While I will not claim to be all-knowing or unbiased, I will try to look at questions and issues as broadly as I can, integrating all kinds of knowledge to come to a conclusion that would be as rounded and inclusive as possible.
Importance of positioning
I believe it is important to know who is writing, and from what perspective and viewpoints some ideas come: as to not hide behind the anonymity of the Internet, but to come out and explain why I write what I write.
Especially within postcolonial theory (and thus in the work we do at Mapping Slavery), interdisciplinarity, intersectionality and positioning are important. Adrienne Rich, a feminist poet and writer has written the well-known article Notes Towards a Politics of Location, where she starts the conversation about being accountable for our own location and standpoint. Not only in feminist theory, but in all disciplines should this tactic be used: because if we do not account for where we come from, our class, gender, age, and all other aspects of our identity, we could not acknowledge the way these aspects have influenced the knowledge we have acquired. In my case, I think it is important to acknowledge that the knowledge I have gained is thanks to the fact that I have access to a university education, but also thanks to all the other experiences, privileges and aspects of my life. Especially within the discourse postcolonial theory, power structures always have and will be playing a huge role; who is talking about whom and for whom? Because especially in the case of African slave history, which we are talking about, the voices of the African (descendant) people have been ignored, and the voices of upper class (white) European people have been encouraged. This is why it is so important to listen to these voices that have long time not been heard, and understand when it is good to position yourself, and put your own voice more on the background.
Interdisciplinarity and intersectionality
Interdisciplinarity means that you try to gain and create knowledge from more than one discipline. So for instance use not only works from historical scholars, but also philosophical, social or feminist scholars. This way, you can broaden your own perspective, try to look at a topic from several angles and bring them all together.
Intersectionality might sound the same, but is just slightly different: instead of using theories, intersectionality talks about looking at issues considering different intersections of that subject. For instance, when looking into colonial history, we might tend to only look at racial aspects. However, gender, class and sexuality are all aspects that are just as important in telling the whole story. As such, scholars who do a lot of intersectional research urge people not to only look at certain stories from one angle, but look at the different aspects that might have influenced the outcome: the intersection of those aspects.
So, in my work, I will try to be as intersectional and interdisciplinary as possible, while not forgetting to position myself. By keeping this in mind, try to avoid the idea of the “all knowing scientist/scholar”, and allow myself to be unknowing of some things, and acknowledge that what I know is always biased and comes from my own perspective.
What can you expect in the coming weeks?
During my study, I have found that my main interest lies within the feminist postcolonial discipline, and mainly with the aspect of representation within culture, art and media. I find it important to analyze and think critically about what representations we see daily, what power structures lie behind and how it could be done differently. I try to write respectfully and acknowledging from my own position, without ever trying to speak for others. This way, I hope to still be able to use my academic knowledge in a positive way, while not use my privilege to override other voices. In the coming months, I will be writing about Mapping Slavery, but also about topics concerning (Dutch) colonial history and heritage, in order to give a fuller image of the context in which Mapping Slavery has been set up. For instance I will be writing about the Dutch education surrounding the colonial past, which might explain why we believe Mapping Slavery is a crucial and important project. Next to that I will also come back to topics such as the Dutch movie Michiel de Ruyter (which has gotten a lot of negative feedback saying it was glorifying the life of someone who had a crucial part in the history of slavery) or the commotion around the Golden Carriage (the carriage which the Dutch royal family rides once a year has been criticized for having illustrations on it that refer to slaves and slave holders).
Because I believe that education and representation are so closely linked to each other, I will try to expand on topics regarding both of them the coming months, trying to upload a new blog every week. I will also try to mix up the form of media presented, so that it will be a mix of writing, film and audio.