Geography of Empire: Summary Post

As summer comes to an end, and a new semester of classes begins, I would like to summarize my experience with my project. My research methods for this project were heavily site visit based. I visited an abundance of locations in Amsterdam, some of which have been referred to in previous blog posts. In addition to this, I utilized secondary sources to develop understanding of postcolonial and spatial theory. This experience also introduced me to the value that simply keeping your eyes and ears open at all times and being open to following new paths in your research can be. Some of the information that became important in my paper, including about the renaming of a restaurant due to backlash to its colonial name and about the annual event in Amsterdam commemorating the abolition of slavery in the Dutch colonies, I learned about rather happenstance: in the former case due to noticing a different name when I visited the restaurant than what I had seen on Google Maps months earlier, and in the latter case due to its mention in secondary source.

What I determined from my research is that the city of Amsterdam has a landscape littered with a great deal of imperial influence. However, the way it appears and the way it is or is not addressed varies largely, preventing one spatial narrative, and there are efforts being made by residents and people in power to use space to directly challenge imperial hegemony. My paper begins by addressing spaces in the landscape of the city that fit into a story of imperial power. This includes imagery on buildings, headquarters of former trading companies, street names, and a neighborhood with a large population of migrants from former Dutch colonies. The second section of the paper addresses spaces that challenge this story. Monuments, newer street names, and events are included here, and the neighborhood mentioned in the first section is re-approached here. It becomes clear that much of the effort to challenge the imperial narrative in Amsterdam’s geography is led by “average” residents of the city, by which I mean non-governing people.

I will leave you, in this my last post, with a photo of a location in the famous canal belt of Amsterdam – a beautiful construction, but one we should know was built during the 17th century economic boom supported in part by colonization and exploitation of colonies around the world.IMG_8900