Our tropical home : Danish 'empire migrants' in the U.S. Virgin Islands, 1917-1945
Title: Our tropical home : Danish 'empire migrants' in the U.S. Virgin Islands, 1917-1945
Author: ØSTERGAARD HANSEN, Pernille
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2017
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
In 1917 Denmark sold its Caribbean colony to the United States. At a time when other European empires were promoting social and economic reforms in the colonies, the Danish state was withdrawing. However, the transfer of the islands did not break Danish ties to the former colony. An already established group of Danish companies on the islands – Danish sugar factories, plantation companies, a Danish Bank and The Danish West Indian Company - provided the infrastructure for post-transfer migration. This group of migrants was diverse, consisting of settlers practising as old colonials had done, expatriates working for the private companies and practising Danishness in terms of bourgeoisie – and a small group of inbetweeners, priest, deaconesses, doctors and children, who to a larger degree integrated into local community. Paradoxically, as the Danish state pulled out, a strong narrative of nationality, development and national responsibility had come to underscore the Danish community. As the balance tipped towards a majority of expatriates, the Danish Island community experienced an upheaval in marital practices towards an all-white and all-Danish marriage culture. Although predominantly narrating a tale of Danish homeliness in their cultural and social lives, Island Danes mimicked a global image of tropical whiteness in practise, and repeated practises of the old Danish colonials. The result was a specific Island Danishness, which was a mixture of Danish culture and practises, imperial tropes, bourgeoisie and local elements that increasingly incorporated American culture. For returnees to Denmark the narrative of national homeliness was often amplified. Through their nostalgia and heavy involvement in memory work, they came to form the national-romantic narrative of the colonial past in public memory. In a small window of history, then, a small group of tropical Danes made the islands into ‘home’, and thereby brought a global-imperialistic tendency into Danish colonial history.
Defence date: 10 May 2017; Examining Board: Professor Jorge Flores, European University Institute (Supervisor); Professor Corinna Unger, European University Institute; Professor Stewart Ward, University of Copenhagen; Professor Robert Bickers, University of Bristol
Type of Access: embargoedAccess