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Legacy of Slavery & Indentured Labour


This conference will be organised in order to commemorate:

  • the 170th anniversary of Chinese & Portuguese immigration

  • the 160th anniversary of abolition of slavery

  • the 150th anniversary of immigration of East Indians


  • the 55th Anniversary of the Anton de Kom University of Suriname

This is the third conference on the Legacy of Slavery and Indentured Labour organised by the Anton the Kom University of Suriname.


(Organized by the History Department of the Faculty of Humanities, in collaboration with the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR) ,  the Faculty of Social Sciences, the Social Science Research Institute (IMWO) of the Anton de Kom University of Suriname, the National Archives of Suriname and  the Directorate of Culture (Ministry of Education, Science and Culture)


The present Surinamese and other Caribbean societies are a product of different forms of migration of people, starting with the coming of the Indigenous people thousands of years ago, followed by colonization by Europeans who subsequently introduced African slaves and indentured labourers from Asia. In Suriname we experienced flows of new immigrants who arrived from Guyana, Brazil, Haiti and China. In our contemporary world we have also experienced the migration of people from the so called Third World to the more “developed” countries.


Since the second half of the 20th century another migration process in the world is taking place as a consequence of which a large proportion of the population of postcolonial states is presently living in Diaspora. In the age of globalization, boundaries between states are vanishing while in relation to modern migration and Diaspora there are transnational links and loyalties, which sometimes have been perceived as problematic. The responses in many states about the influx of migrants are diverse, from hostility to solidarity. Europe and the USA are trying to stop migration via different measures, varying from agreements with sending countries to the construction of the Mexican Wall by the USA.


Suriname shares with the Caribbean and other postcolonial societies an experience of colonialism, European colonization, African slavery followed by immigration of indentured labourers from Asia, and massive emigration to the former metropolis and North America during the second half of the twentieth century.  Many of the processes and developments are not unique for one country or a region; on the contrary, we see that those problems and issues can be compared with each other. By comparing common issues across nations and even regions, we can better understand our world today. Comparison may also help us find solutions to different and even shared problems.

Aim of the conference

The aim of the conference is to connect historical specificities of slavery, indentured labour and migration to contemporary issues of globalization, Diaspora, identity formation, interculturalism, nationalism and transnationalism.

At the same time, we want to promote new perspectives and approaches in the study of forced and free migration and their impact on the society. By bringing scholars together from various parts of the world - senior scholars as well as new promising talents - we hope to stimulate exchange of ideas, set up new networks and strengthen existing ones. 


Central theme: The impact of colonialism, slavery, indentured labour and migration on present societies

Some questions to be answered during the conference are:

  • What are the legacies of slavery and indentured labour in social, economic, cultural, political


  • How can the rights of indigenous and tribal people be brought in harmony with what is perceived as national interests and vice versa?

  • How did post-slavery identity formation occur in different parts of the world in general?

  • What has been the psychological impact of slavery and indentured labour?

  • How are transnational identities developing in the world of today?

  • How is the process of identification related to the imaginary relation with the country of origin and with other “partners in distress” in the Diaspora?

  • In the case of the second migration or the twice migrants, what is perceived as country of origin? In other words: What kind of home land perspectives do people have and which impact will this have on their relation with the former homeland?

  • In which ways did the various groups adapt to the new environment? What has been the policy or attitude of the receiving countries or societies?

  • What have been the experiences of those who were left behind and those who returned to their respective home countries?

  • How are localizing processes (‘creolization’) expressed in migrant cultures?

  • What kind of transnational ties exist among descendants of immigrants in the Caribbean and other countries?

        Are alternative transnational identities in the Caribbean real or an imagination?

  • How are transnational ties and identities recognized and institutionalized by the State in the former homelands?

  • What has been the policy of the countries of origin regarding their former citizens living in Diaspora? How do they try to engage the diaspora for the development of the “home country” or country of origin?

  • How and why are local processes of identity formation related to emotional and practical identification to the countries of origin, and how do these countries feature in these processes?

  • Which are the social, economic, cultural and political consequences of migration and Diaspora in modern times?


Suggested themes based on the abovementioned questions.

  • The legacy of slavery and indentured labour: historical and current developments, with special reference to the psychological legacy of slavery and indentured labour;

  • The impact of colonialism, slavery and indentured labour migration on the position of the indigenous people;

  • Ethnicity, Culture and Interculturality;

    • The role of ethnocentrism, ethnic labelling and stereotyping in the process of creating and maintaining ethnic boundaries

    • Ethnicity and politics

    • Religion, Spirituality and Identity;

    • Boundary maintenance and interethnic/interreligious marriage;

  • Conflict resolution in socio-cultural spheres

  • Intergenerational dynamics in cultural identities

    • Transnational networks and identities.

  • Relations with the country of origin?

  • Transnational families

  • Popular culture


  • Language development in migration societies/migrant communities.

        -Origin and development of Creolized languages.

        -Development of multilingual societies

  • The influence on Framing of Slavery and indentureship in literary fictitious texts

  • Localization and globalization of religions.

  • Social and cultural problems of people in Diaspora

  • Health issues in historical and contemporary context.

  • Reparations: moral, legal and practical aspects.

  • Diaspora policy: past, present and future

Role of people in Diaspora for the development of their country of origin

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