This essay is an introduction to a special section that focuses on the life and work of Anton de Kom, and especially on his seminal 1934 Wij slaven van Suriname. It forms part of a larger project that explores how a Caribbean intellectual tradition can be thought differently if greater attention is paid to the Dutch Caribbean. The essays included in the section demonstrate the shifting role that De Kom and his book have played—from the 1930s and the anxieties they created for the colonial state; to their international impact on other revolutionary movements, such as in Cuba; to their current mobilization by numerous young people of Surinamese descent in the Netherlands as part of an antiracist activism and politics of belonging. Almost ninety years after Wij slaven was first published, it has become a bestseller and De Kom has been named to the Dutch national historical canon. As more than political activism, the guest editors examine Anton de Kom in this Small Axe platform for Caribbean thought with the hope that these essays will stimulate even more scholarship on De Kom’s life and work and on the Dutch Caribbean more broadly, beyond the borders of the Dutch-speaking context.
Other Radicals: Anton de Kom and the Caribbean Intellectual Tradition
Wayne Modest is director of content at the National Museum of World Culture (a museum group comprising the Tropenmuseum, Museum Volkenkunde, and Africa Museum) and the Wereldmuseum Rotterdam in the Netherlands. He is also professor (by special appointment) of material culture and critical heritage studies at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. A cultural studies scholar by training, Modest works at the intersection of material culture, memory, and heritage studies, with a strong focus on colonialism and its afterlives in Europe and the Caribbean. He is currently working on several publication projects, including, with Peter Pels, Museum Temporalities (forthcoming) and, with Chiara de Cesari, Curating the Colonial (forthcoming).
Susan Legêne is professor of political history at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and dean of the Faculty of Humanities. She has taught and published about culture and power, specifically about the deep impact of the colonial and imperial past on state formation, nation building, citizenship, and processes of inclusion, exclusion, and belonging in the postwar world of nations. Together with Wayne Modest and Rosalie Hans she is a member of the management team of the project Pressing Matter—Ownership, Value, and the Question of Colonial Heritage in Museums (2020–25). See also research.vu.nl/en/persons/susan-legene.
Wayne Modest, Susan Legêne; Other Radicals: Anton de Kom and the Caribbean Intellectual Tradition. Small Axe 1 March 2023; 27 (1 (70)): 52–58. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-10461814
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