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Open Access July 1, emancipation day in Suriname: a contested ‘lieu de mémoire’, 1863-2003

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July 1, emancipation day in Suriname: a contested ‘lieu de mémoire’, 1863-2003

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

Focuses on the annual celebration at the 1st of July of the abolition of slavery in Suriname (1863). Author describes how Emancipation Day celebrations in Suriname have developed over time. He relates how in the earliest celebrations after 1863 Emancipation Day was used by the authorities, in collaboration with the Moravian Church, to discipline and control the formerly enslaved, and thus strengthen the colonial status quo. This was done by emphasizing the necessity of white guidance for the blacks' development, and by creating a "cult of gratitude" to God and the Dutch king. Around 1900 a developing consciousness among Afro-Surinamese, due to migrations to the US, began contesting the way of commemorating slavery and the abolition, including a wider sense of belonging to an African diaspora in the Americas. Since then a gradual process of partly secularization of the celebrations began. Further, the author outlines how the African diaspora- and black consciousness influences, often from the US, continued to transform the content and style of the celebrations, but also had a wider influence among Afro-Surinamers regarding their sense of pride and cultural identity, reflecting in the changed names for Afro-Surinamers. The July 1 celebrations increasingly became linked to African-Surinamese ethnicity, while it also became a folkloric, festive, and wider national event, until it became again more politically charged since the 1980s.

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