Decolonisation in Dutch Archives: Defining and Debating


  • Michael Karabinos



This article is part of the forum 'Rethinking the VOC: Between Archival Management and Research Practice'.


On 23 and 24 November 2017 the symposium ‘Rethinking the voc? Old genres, new trends in research and analysis’ took place at the National Archives in The Hague, organised by the archive in cooperation with the Leiden University Institute for History on the occasion of the ‘The world of the Dutch East India Company’ [De Wereld van de voc] exhibition at the National Archives. This symposium ended with a round table about the state of the decolonisation of Dutch archives. As a participant in this debate, I focused on the question what exactly was meant by the terms decolonisation and archives, as well as the Dutch-centred approach. In this article I look at the usage of these terms and different actions, such as digitisation and re-evaluating archives, that are typically discussed in debates about the practice of decolonising archives.


Op 23 en 24 november 2017 vond bij het Nationaal Archief in Den Haag het symposium ‘Rethinking the voc? Old genres, new trends in research and analysis’ plaats. Dit symposium was georganiseerd door het Nationaal Archief in samenwerking met het Instituut voor Geschiedenis van de Universiteit Leiden, ter gelegenheid van de voc-tentoonstelling in het Nationaal Archief. Het symposium werd afgesloten met een rondetafeldiscussie over de stand van zaken van de dekolonisatie van archieven in Nederland. Tijdens deze discussie concentreerde ik me op de precieze betekenis van de termen ‘dekolonisatie’, ‘archieven’ en een ‘Nederlandse benadering’. In dit artikel ga ik dieper in op het gebruik van deze begrippen en de bijbehorende acties, zoals de digitalisering en het opnieuw evalueren van archieven, die in de verschillende discussies over het dekoloniseren van archieven aan de orde komen.


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Author Biography

Michael Karabinos

Michael Karabinos is an archivist and archival theorist based in Amsterdam. He teaches Archival Studies at the University of Amsterdam and has been a research fellow at the Van Abbemuseum since 2016. Karabinos received his PhD from Leiden University and was previously a visiting fellow at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Combining questions on the nature of archives with their role in the decolonisation of Southeast Asia, his work has been published in Displaced Archives (Routledge Publishing, 2017), Information & Culture, and Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde, among others. He is co-editor of the book Colonial Legacy in Southeast Asia: The Dutch Archives.




How to Cite

Karabinos, M. (2019). Decolonisation in Dutch Archives: Defining and Debating. BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, 134(2), 129–141.