Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Forgotten Lineages. Afterlives of Dutch Slavery in the Indian Ocean World

Forgotten Lineages explores the paths through which generations of formally enslaved and their descendants gradually forgot their past of enslavement under Dutch and British imperial rule and became local subjects in Sri Lanka and South Africa. It explores why and how forgetting rather than memory became the basis of belonging and selfhood.

2023 - 2027
Nira Wickramasinghe
NWO Open Competitie NWO Open Competitie

GLOBALISE, a consortium of Huygens-ING/IISG Forgotten Lineages.

Sri Lanka was a crucial node of Dutch slave trade activities in the Indian Ocean world connecting present-day South Africa, Mauritius, and Indonesia. Forgotten Lineages re-evaluates early waves of European slavery on the island, questions the role of slave ancestry in (re)fashioning communities in creolizing colonial suburbs and analyses the life courses of Sri Lankan enslaved and their descendants, displaced by imperial powers to Dutch and later British Cape Town from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Using colonial sources from Dutch eighteenth-century last wills and cadastral registration, over nineteenth-century British slave registers and church records, to indigenous Sinhalese narrative sources we will write contiguous transimperial histories that traverse multiple archives. Forgotten Lineages will shed light on three interconnected processes that were at play in these Indian Ocean territories: individual self-identification, community formation and colonial institutions‘ role in fashioning subjects according to racialized logics. Forgotten Lineages will not only articulate the complexity and the variety of forms taken by Dutch and British colonialism and enslavement, it will fundamentally alter our understanding of the afterlives of enslavement through a deep and rooted exploration of new Dutch, British and Sinhalese source materials. 

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