Scandinavian Colonialism and the Rise of Modernity

Volume 37 of the series Contributions To Global Historical Archaeology pp 37-52


Black on White: Danish Colonialism, Iceland and the Caribbean

  • Kristín LoftsdóttirAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of Iceland Email author 
  • , Gísli PálssonAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of Iceland

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For some time, scholars have stressed the centrality of colonialism and imperialism for European identity formations, in addition calling for increased destabilisation of the boundaries between colonised and colonisers, thus looking at colonialism in more nuanced ways. This chapter explores some of the complications and contradictions of Danish colonialism during the nineteenth century, using Iceland and the Caribbean as case examples. The discussion is twofold: On the one hand, it emphasises Icelandic representations of skin colour, and their special relationship to the colonial metropole. On the other hand, it explores the case of Hans Jonatan, who was born into slavery on a sugar plantation in St. Croix, later transferred to Copenhagen as part of a white household, then, after the abolition of slavery in Denmark, sentenced to go back to St. Croix, eventually escaping to Iceland, where he settled and raised a family. We suggest that this case highlights contradictory notions of colonial relationships.