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Logo: Cultural heritage as a resource?
Logo Leibniz Universität Hannover
Logo: Cultural heritage as a resource?
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Associated sub-project C

Memories of Atlantic Slavery. France and Spain, the French Caribbean and Cuba Compared in the Context of Global Debates about the Commemoration of Slave Trade and Slavery

Direction: PD Dr. Ulrike Schmieder, Department of History, Philosophical Faculty, Hannover

In the context of the global Cultural Heritage Boom, where local, national, and global identity constructions are involved and intertwined with interests in cultural tourism, sites of memory of colonialism and slavery related with guilt are a field of social conflicts. In the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) there is a debate in Europe and the former colonies in Africa and America, if, where and how slavery should be remembered, who should apologize to whom and who should indemnify whom. Societies discuss how to handle remnants of slavery, which statues (of slave traders as benefactors of port towns, for instance) should be demolished or commented, which museums and memorials have to be established or reformed. If the coming to terms with recent dictatorships does not interfere with the remembrance of colonial times (Spain, Portugal), the controversies on the colonial past play a more important role in countries with a longer colonial history and many immigrants from their former colonies (England, France, Netherlands) than in Germany. Here, the disputes had concentrated on the handling of the Nazi past and connected sites of memory until very recent times.

On the basis of the knowledge on slavery and post-emancipation, particularly on the French Caribbean island Martinique and former Spanish Cuba, the research is dedicated e the handling of historical remnants (plantations, manor houses, slave huts) and the establishment of sites of commemoration (memorials and museums) in France and Spain, the French Caribbean with focus on Martinique and Cuba in the context of global debates on this topic. The historiography focused until now mostly on the Anglophone space. The central question will be which protagonists promoted the establishment of sites of commemoration, which protagonists tried to impede them, who uses the sites how and to which purpose, or ignore them and why. This research will make visible current power relations, (social and racist) inclusions and exclusions in the society which remembers or forgets. On selected places of remembrance in Martinique and Cuba the counter-memories of descendants of the enslaved and their relation to the sites of memory shall be studied through Oral History methods. Interviews with experts and activists in the capitals and port towns of the former colonial powers France and Spain and in the Caribbean as well as documents from local archives and libraries provide further sources.