The European maritime overseas expansion beginning in 1415 started a process of more frequent encounters of peoples. These encounters were as peaceful as they were violent, and were as
sporadic and temporary as they were regular and long-term. They were usually characterized by the rules imposed by colonial and imperial expansion, and some encounters had more impact than
others in terms of space and time.
European encounters overseas, resulting from global individual and collective movements, faced three specific issues. Firstly, encounters often resulted in cross-cultural exchanges between people
with different cultural backgrounds. Secondly, the ambition of European states like chartered and joint stock companies to control economic resources, often resulted in the need to govern existing
diversity in the places of contact. Thirdly, more often than not, before the nineteenth century, Europeans were unable to govern diversity in the way their metropolitan administrative bodies conceived of because Asian, African and American societies and political entities were able to impose, by force, fact or negotiation, a ‘middle ground’ (R. White).
By the nineteenth century, however, the ‘middle ground’ was ‘subverted’ (White). Imperialism entered its high phase across America, Africa, and Asia at that time: colonial regimes of whichever
nationality introduced rigid measures to ensure the segregation of communities and established topdown state structures intended to secure their rule, governing diversity through separating and
dividing societies. Despite the process of decolonization and the establishment of new nation-states, some of the societal divisions implemented during the colonial period still linger on, as can be seen in debates and conflicts surrounding questions of race, gender, class, and creed.
This panel will conceptualize the problems surrounding the definitions of diversity for Early Modern and Modern Europe and how those concepts were transposed to overseas territories,
whether and how they differed in colonies with different European colonial masters, and how perceptions of diversity changed and transformed through the centuries. Our global framework will
highlight the aspects of diachronic and synchronic comparisons undertaken in the papers of this panel.
Margret Frenz (Stuttgart)
Cátia Antunes (Leiden)
Negotiating Diversity in the Early Modern and Modern World: Conceptual Considerations
Elisabeth Heijmans (Leiden)
Legislating Diversity in the Dutch Early Modern Empire: Regulations on Sexual and Marital Lives of Colonial Populations
Early modern Dutch overseas companies (VOC and WIC) not only acted as commercial entities but also produced regulations to control the diverse and mobile populations that formed in and around their settlements. To investigate how these companies governed diversity, this presentation takes the perspective of colonial legislators and focuses on a specific factor of social control: the regulation of sexual relations and marriages of the governed population. Taking normative sources as a starting point, this paper will compare Dutch outposts in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans to determine to what extent the regulation of sex and marriage varied across the empire, and explore whether these variances can be explained by the particularities of colonial societies (i.e. slavery, ethnic composition).
Sophie Rose (Leiden)
“Love” in the Time of Company Rule: Dutch Colonial Categorization and the Policing of Sex in Theory and Practice’
Sex and (in)fidelity, throughout the Early Modern period, were a public as well as private concern – not least so in the socially pluralist context of Dutch overseas colonies, where divisions along racial, religious, and geographic lines added a further dimension to questions of sexual honour, patriarchal authority, and group allegiance. This paper explores how sexual transgressions, particularly those of married women formally belonging to the ‘European’ community, were regulated in theory and practice, or in official legislation and criminal and civil persecution. Zooming in on several case studies from across the Dutch Empire, the paper aims to show how conflicts within the domestic sphere overlapped with fraught questions regarding jurisdiction, power, and social categorization in a diverse colonial context.
Benjamin Brühwiler (Basel)
Creating Networks of Meaning through Credit and Debt: Cosmopolitan Corner Communities in the “African section” of Colonial Dar es Salaam
Although colonial officials planned the “African section” of Dar es Salaam with a grid-like structure of orthogonally intersecting streets, the cosmopolitan residents of the neighbourhood, who were of African, Asian, and Arab descent, defied the anonymity inherent in the monotonous and repetitive street layout and formed meaningful communities around corner shops. I argue and illustrate in this paper that the physical space of shops was crucial to community formation and that dense networks of meaning were socially constructed through credit and debt relationships centred around neighbourhood shops.
Christiane Bürger (Berlin)
Diversity as a Political Resource of Commemoration? Colonial Namibia and German Historiography’
More than a century after the first genocide of the 20th century took place in Namibia, Germany and Namibia are engaged in intense negotiations on how Germany will apologize to Namibia and the descendants of the victims and compensate for their suffering // and how to acknowledge their suffering'. Eurocentrism, racism and and the colonial order of knowledge are shaping the debate. It is almost forgotten that the GDR tried to disclose German colonial history in much detail. A critical approach to colonialism and the rejection of colonial concepts were mandatory. This contribution will investigate how the socialist state negotiated diversity as a political resource for commemoration.
Festo Mkenda (Nairobi)