Edelgaard Christensen, Kristoffer. Governing Black and White: A History of Governmentality in Denmark and the Danish West Indies, 1770-1900. (2023). [PDF]

Edelgaard Christensen, Kristoffer. Governing Black and White: A History of Governmentality in Denmark and the Danish West Indies, 1770-1900. Dissertation. Department of History, Lund university, 2023.

This dissertation explores and compares the rationalities through which Danish state officials sought to govern the colonized Afro-Caribbean population in the colony of the Danish West Indies and the state’s Danish subjects living in the metropole of Denmark in the period 1770-1900. Theoretically, it relies upon Michel Foucault’s conception of ’governmentality’ and the way this approach to governing, and to state power more generally, has been employed in various colonial and European settings, particularly within the field of colonial governmentality studies. This dissertation distinguishes itself from this field, however, by comparing metropole and colony in a more even, in-depth, and open-ended way; one which is sensitive to changes over time. The aim of this mode of comparison is to explore on a more solid foundation what was unique (and what was not unique) about colonial governing at particular points in time and space.The dissertation is split into two parts. The first deals with the period 1770-1800 and offers an in-depth comparative account of the Danish state’s governing of seigneurial relations at home and master-slave relations in the colony; the state’s attempts to reform the criminal laws; its investment in the maintenance of racial and social hierarchies; its regulation of the everyday public lives of slaves and peasants; and lastly, its governing of the productive lives of enslaved and unpropertied laborers. In the second part, which deals with the period 1840-1900, the focus is on the making of a free labor market in metropole and colony and the associated apparatuses of poor administration and policing.Essentially, the comparative analyses of the governmentalities, which were at the heart of these projects and domains of governing, point to a profound historical shift in the relationship between metropole and colony. In the late eighteenth-century, colonial officials in the Danish West Indies could still draw upon the governmentalities, which were essential for their peers back home. Thus, although colonial and metropolitan governmentalities were far from identical, there were significant points of overlap and commensurability in the governing of ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’. Over the course of the nineteenth century however, these points of overlap and commensurability all but vanished. After the abolition of slavery in 1848, colony and metropole had become ‘worlds beyond compare’, each requiring each own particular ‘handbook’ of governing. On this basis, the dissertation points to the importance of exploring not only the distinction between colonial and non-colonial governing, but also the history of the distinction itself.

PDF: https://portal.research.lu.se/en/publications/governing-black-and-white-a-history-of-governmentality-in-denmark