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Tranquebar—Whose History? Transnational Cultural Heritage in a Former Danish Trading Colony in South India

By Helle Jørgensen

Tranquebar, a small fishing town on the coast of Tamil Nadu, was a Danish trading colony from 1620 to 1845. In recent years, the drive to develop it into a heritage destination has generated large-scale conservation and restoration efforts aimed at preserving the monuments of the town’s colonial past.

Alongside the proliferation of surveys and development plans, manifold agents including local and state-level authorities, private entrepreneurs, researchers, NGOs, and tourists—Danish and Indian—congregate in the town. Yet the townscape also sets the scene for the everyday lives and concerns of the local inhabitants. Tranquebar—Whose History? explores the significances of cultural heritage in this small town, revealing the multiple attachments to, uses of, and negotiations around the townscape and its histories in daily life, tourism, research and heritage development.

The discussion moves from the differing motivations attending local and transnational constructions of Tranquebar as a “remote” location; the conflicting attitudes to “modernity” and notions of aesthetics among various stakeholders; to shifting constructions of history in which Tranquebar emerges as a postcolony, caught between colonial nostalgia, collective memory and contemporary narrations of anti-conquest.

This volume will be useful to those engaged in anthropology, history, postcolonial studies and cultural studies. It will also be of interest to students of heritage and tourism, heritage practitioners and to the general reader.

Helle Jørgensen lectures at the Department of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark