Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

A Postcolonial Dilemma Tale from the Harbour of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands

  • Nathalia Brichet

Abstract

The port of Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas has long been a vibrant centre for ship trafficking in the Caribbean, as it was during Danish colonial rule starting in 1672. In 1917, Denmark officially sold and left what became the US Virgin Islands. Not everybody left, though. The Danish-owned West Indian Company, which owned the majority of the St. Thomas port and its attendant facilities, stayed until 1993. At that point the harbour was sold to the Virgin Islanders, who for some time had complained about the fact that a Danish company still profited from the islands. The harbour of Charlotte Amalie, which is my central analytical unit here, thus provides a lens through which to approach Danish colonial imprints.

The harbour is and has been characterised by activities of a temporary and opportunistic kind: industries blossom, people and crops from far away get uprooted and replanted in the Caribbean, businesses provide work for locals, goods are shipped out to be consumed in other places. The transitory nature of projects designed by people elsewhere, I argue, is part of what colonialism is. As I will show, the traces of such projects appear not only as particular ecologies but also as dilemmas to be grappled with long after the foreign decision-makers have left. My approach to colonial legacies on the Virgin Islands, then, mobilises the shifting flows of people, commodities, and interests shipped in and out of Charlotte Amalie to leave behind altered landscapes that are continuously debated.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Footnotes

Hide All
*

Nathalia Brichet holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Copenhagen. Brichet is a postdoc working with industrial and colonial legacies, landscape histories, and environmental concerns in former Danish colonies (Ghana, US Virgin Islands, and Greenland). As a part of her fieldwork, Brichet has designed and managed several collecting projects and curated exhibitions together with colleagues in Denmark, England, Ghana, Greenland, and the USA.

Footnotes

References

Hide All
Danish National Archives, Copenhagen, Denmark (DNA)
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)
- Gruppeordnede sager 0002, 1909–1945 (GS)
- Dessau, Axel Carl Julius, Private Papers (DP)
- Danish National Tourist Office (DNTO)
- Møller, Holger Christian Valdemar, Private Papers (MP)
- HCV Møller som havnebygmester, senere havnedirektør i København (MHK)
Andersen, H. N. Tilbageblik. Copenhagen: Hertz's Bogtrykkeri, 1914.
Andersen, H. N. Udvikling. Copenhagen: Hertz's Bogtrykkeri, 1929.
Gjessing, Helen. “Coalition Urges More Public Space at Long Bay.” St. Thomas Source, March 10, 2003. https://stthomassource.com/ accessed 23 March 2017.
Graham, Cynthia. “Quality of Life Tops List as Reason for Long Bay Project Suspension.” The Virgin Islands Consortium, 12 March 2017. http://viconsortium.com/business/quality-of-life-tops-list-as-reason-for-long-bay-project-suspension/, accessed 23 March 2017.
H. H. “Foreningen ‘De danske Atlanterhavsøer.’Nationaløkonomisk Tidsskrift 12 (1904): 202–4.
US Virgin Islands (USVI) Bureau of Economic Research. www.usviber.org, accessed 22 December 2016.
Andersen, Astrid Nonbo. “Vore gamle tropekolonier?: Tropekolonierne som danske erindringssteder.” Slagmark 57 (2010): 8191.
Andersen, Astrid Nonbo. Ingen Undskyldning. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2017.
Bascom, William. African Dilemma Tales. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1975.
Brichet, Nathalia. An Anthropology of Common Ground: Awkward Encounters in Heritage Work. Manchester, UK: Mattering Press, 2018. Available online: https://www.matteringpress.org/books.
Brichet, Nathalia, and Hastrup, Frida. “In the Wake: Liveability and Colonial Ecologies around the Harbour of St Thomas.” Slagmark (forthcoming).
Crosby, Alfred W. Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900–1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008 [1986].
Danbolt, Mathias. “Retro Racism: Colonial Ignorance and Racialized Affective Consumption in Danish Public Culture.” Nordic Journal of Migration Research 7:2 (2017).
Gøbel, Erik. “Shipping through the Port of St Thomas.” International Journal of Maritime History 6:2 (1994): 155–73.
Gøbel, Erik. “Sankt Thomas havn i det 19. og tidlige 20. århundrede.” In Handels- og Soefartsmuseet paa Kronborg Aarbog, (2001): 23–64. Available online: https://tidsskrift.dk/mfs_aarbog/article/view/96524.
Hansen, Pernille Østergaard. Our Tropical Home: Danish ‘Empire Migrants’ in the U. S. Virgin Islands, 1917–1945. PhD diss., European University Institute, 2016.
Leibowitz, Arnold H. Defining Status: A Comprehensive Analysis of United States Territorial Relations. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1989.
Nixon, Dennis W.The Filling of Long Bay: The Legacy of a Colonial Past.” Ocean & Shoreline Management 15 (1990): 123.
Olwig, Karen Fog. “Hvad skal vi med dansk kolonihistorie?Fortid og Nutid 32 (1985): 6871.
Schoonover, Bruce. “Caneel Bay Estate before Laurance Rockefeller.” St. John Historical Society 7:4 (2005). Available online: http://stjohnhistoricalsociety.org/vol-no-vii-no-4-dec-2005-caneel-bay-estate-before-laurance-rockefeller-contributed-by-bruce-schoonover/
Sebro, Louise. “Danmark og den koloniale fortid.” Arkæologisk Forum 14 (2006): 26.
Sheller, Mimi. Consuming the Caribbean: From Arawaks to Zombies. New York: Routledge, 2003.
Stoler, Ann L.Introduction, ‘The Rot Remains’: From Ruins to Ruination.” In Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination, edited by Stoler, Ann L., 138. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2013.
Tsing, Anna. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2015.
Tsing, Anna, et al. eds. Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
Tyson, George F. The St. Thomas Harbor: A Historical Perspective. Charlotte Amalie: St. Thomas Historical Trust, 1991.
Westphall, Povl. Aktieselskabet det Østasiatiske Kompagni. Copenhagen: Egmont Petersen, 1972.

Keywords

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

A Postcolonial Dilemma Tale from the Harbour of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands

  • Nathalia Brichet

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.