A Post-Colonial Dilemma Tale from the Harbour of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelfagfællebedømt

The port of Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas has long been a vibrant centre for ship trafficking in the Caribbean, also during Danish colonial rule starting in 1672. In 1917, Denmark officially sold and left what came to be the US Virgin Islands. Not everybody left, though. The Danish owned business West Indian Company which owned the majority of the St Thomas port and its attendant facilities stayed until 1993. At that moment the harbour was sold to the Virgin Islanders who for some time had grouched over the fact that a Danish company still profited on the islands. Exploring the harbour of Charlotte Amalie as my central analytical unit thus provides an interesting lens through which to approach Danish colonial imprints.
The harbour is and has been characterized 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 elsewhere. All kinds of projects die off and disappear, only passing through, after all, as has also been argued by Mimi Sheller. This transitory nature of projects designed elsewhere by people elsewhere, I argue, is part of what colonialism is, and it occasions particular ecologies, liveable for some and lethal for others. My approach to colonial legacies on the Virgin Islands, then, mobilizes the shifting flows of people, commodities and interests shipped in and out of Charlotte Amalie to leave behind altered landscapes.
In the article I ask these seemingly simple questions: What follows in the wake of more than 200 years of Danish ownership of the West Indian Islands, as they were then termed? How has the Danish presence left its marks in the islands’ ecologies and nurtured both wondrous and monstrous forms of life? How is the island of St Thomas marked by these past activities’ ramifications?

TidsskriftItinerario: International Journal on the History of European Expansion and Global Interaction
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)348-365
Antal sider18
StatusUdgivet - 2019

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