Accepted Paper:

Black citizenship, Afropolitan critiques: African heritage practice on contested terrain  

Author:

Marleen de Witte (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

This paper places the question of race and heritage politics in post-colonial Europe in the triangular relations between “white” majorities, Afro-Caribbean and African populations. This conveys the complexity of racial dynamics in heritage making and sensitizes to alternative sources of critique.

Paper long abstract:

This paper offers a new perspective on the relationship between the contested terrain of race and the politics of heritage and territorial belonging in post-colonial Europe. Presenting material from the Netherlands, I argue for including a "third perspective": instead of reproducing the dyadic framework of "white majority" versus "black minority" populations, I situate the negotiation of race in the triangular relationship between the persistent "whiteness" of Dutch nationhood, its postcolonial Afro-Caribbean population, and its more recent African migrant population.

Discussing "African heritage" projects by Dutch people of Afro-Caribbean and Ghanaian descent respectively, I discern two different critiques of the racialized exclusivity of Dutchness. Struggles for "Black citizenship" seek recognition of African heritage as part of Dutch colonial history and serve to inscribe Blackness into Dutch nationhood; "Afropolitan" celebrations of "being African in the world" not only question the primacy of Dutch national belonging but also resist hegemonic formulations of Blackness. These projects speak to the circulation of categories of difference and belonging on multiple spatial levels: 1) global trajectories of " blackness" and "Africanness"; 2) intensified xenophobia and growing Black emancipation on a national level; and 3) shifting hierarchies of ethnicity on a local level.

In this "trialogue", race gets done and undone in intersection with other axes of difference and inequality, including citizenship status, migration trajectory, and African origin. The triadic framework the paper advances not only conveys the complexity of racial dynamics in heritage making, but also sensitizes to alternative understandings of belonging and alternative sources of critique.

Panel P026
The anthropology of race and ethnicity network launch [ARE]