“De Zwijger” speaks with … Francio Guadeloupe


De Zwijger magazine spoke with Dr. Francio Guadeloupe about the importance of new narratives and traditions. Below is a translation of an interview that De Zwijger conducted with the anthropologist and public intellectual. This interview relates to the program, Moving Traditions, which took place on Friday, December 7, where the discussion centered on initiatives on the formation of new traditions. De Zwijger writes:

In Franco Guadeloupe’s anthropological work, he not only exposes the problems of the colonial past, but also looks for possible solutions, new narratives, and positive movements. His motive to speak about these topics is closely linked to his own complicated experience as a Dutch citizen born in Aruba. Today we speak with Francio about his life, work and the shifting of traditions.

Hi Francio! Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Francio Guadeloupe. I am a researcher and teacher at the UvA and former president of the University of Sint Maarten. I am an anthropologist and I am researching how the colonial past of the Netherlands is represented in the media, the political language, but also in views on religion, gender and sexuality. The focus is on processes of decolonization. In my current research, this is reflected in urban popular culture, particularly in the music industry. What does the mainstreaming of groups such as SFB or Brotherly Love say about how decolonization takes place in society? What happens generally and in terms of class and ethnicity? And how do I translate all processes that I describe into possible solutions?’

What is your inspiration to research decolonization?

I was born on Aruba, as a Dutch citizen. In Aruba, this is not so complicated; I only really noticed the issue when I left for the Netherlands. Many questioned my citizenship and what people mainly looked at were the physical differences Then you also have structural racism. An important question that comes with that is what do we, as a society, do with that colonial legacy? Because I am a Dutch citizen due to colonialism; but that also applies to the mainland Dutch. Without colonialism, there would be no Netherlands Kingdom as we know it today. Education plays an important role in the awareness process. One should learn from a young age that the kingdom consists of different countries and that there are still power differences. My perspective on this is that one must name the problem and then look for solutions. I also see, for example, that [the situation] has already changed positively over the years (despite the current political climate). That encourages me to research these issues and to focus on the positive changes and solutions that exist. For example, I look at what we can learn from the Caribbean islands and the good practices there in dealing with ethnic diversity, and what the Netherlands can learn from the islands to contribute to greater inclusiveness within the kingdom.

What is your contribution to the awareness process in the context of Moving Traditions?

The search for solutions for colonial heritage is central to my work, as is the case with the Moving Traditions program. We are looking for new traditions that give a sense of inclusiveness. For example, it concerns the struggle around Black Pete [Zwarte Piet; see translator’s note below] and racism in general, but that turns into something positive: how do you name problems in an inclusive way? I try to do that from an anthropological view, looking for a new tradition. It is about developing a third story, trying to form a new narrative and designing rituals that belong to all who live here.

About what can the conversation be?

It should be about looking for positive solutions through exchange. A search for living together where people can keep talking about their disagreements and their differences and come up with solutions.

[Above, F. Guadeloupe mentions the Black Pete or Zwarte Piet tradition. See more on this “blackface” tradition, see https://repeatingislands.com/2014/12/06/karen-attiah-the-dutch-blackface-holiday-tradition-has-no-place-in-the-21st-century/ and other posts in the blog.]

Translated by Ivette Romero. For the original interview, in Dutch, see https://dezwijger.nl/magazine/de-zwijger-spreekt-met-francio-guadeloupe.

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