Jørgensen, Helle. ‘Heritage Tourism in Tranquebar: Colonial Nostalgia or Postcolonial Encounter?’ (2013)

Jørgensen, Helle. ‘Heritage Tourism in Tranquebar: Colonial Nostalgia or Postcolonial Encounter?’ Scandinavian Colonialism and the Rise of Modernity, Eds. Magdalena Naum and Jonas M. Nordin, 2013, 69–86.

Heritage tourism in a postcolonial context is often discussed as a practice of colonial nostalgia, or even neocolonialism. Yet the case of Tranquebar shows that a postcolonial interest in heritage may also promote dialogue and a more reflected reengagement with colonial history in the postcolonial present. The South Indian town of Tranquebar was a Danish trading colony in 1620–1845. This period plays a major role in the current development of Tranquebar, which has been declared the so-called heritage town to attract tourists. As the well-preserved townscape is being promoted as a material expression of Indo-Danish colonial history, it is increasingly drawn into question what this history means in a Danish as well as in an Indian perspective. This causes negotiations of the colonial history at several levels. In the encounter with the town and its residents, tourists have occasion to reflect on the meanings and the nature of the Danish colonial engagements with India and other parts of the world. Equally, Danish and Indian agents in the development of Tranquebar as a heritage town enter into a dialogue not only on the colonial past and its meanings, but also on the postcolonial present. Although the relations between India and the various European colonial powers of the past are far from uncontroversial, in the case of Tranquebar a mutual narrative strategy on the colonial Indo-Danish past is that of anti-conquest, a history which makes a mutual reengagement possible.