In: Sandra Ponzanesi and Gianmaria Colpani (Eds.): Postcolonial Transitions in Europe. Context, Practices and Politics (pp. 135-150), Rowman & Littlefield, 2016
This chapter looks back at the historical phase of postcolonial migrations in order to elaborate on encounters between the formerly colonized and their former colonizers, and on what this might mean for the making of a postcolonial Europe. This is done through the analysis of fifteen in–depth interviews with Afro–Surinamese women who arrived in the Netherlands in the 1960s and 1970s and have worked there in the domestic sector.
The narratives of these women emphasize the central role of resentment, i.e., the emotional inheritance of past violence, hatred, and domination which permeates the interactions between the descendants of the colonizers and of the colonized, in their sentiments and imagination. Resentment is thus a legacy that is passed from one generation to another, remaining alive through time and eventually physically travelling with those who migrate, accompanying them on their journeys.
Importantly, the notion of resentment has the capacity to explain the attitudes of the formerly dominant and dominated alike. As I argue in this chapter, on the one hand, it allows for explaining xenophobic tendencies amongst white Dutch people as propelled by feelings of resentment expressed in colonial nostalgia and regretful tones against migrants; and, on the other hand, resentment can be seen as part of the everyday experiences of Afro–Surinamese and other postcolonial migrants, whose inclusion in Dutch society is haunted by the presence of a collective memory of slavery. Thus, resentment offers a powerful entry point for understanding that a postcolonial transition for Europe does not mean simply overcoming colonial Europe, but instead is a process through which this past is continuously negotiated, discussed, and re–articulated in new ideas and political practices.