The Tranquebar Initiative

Tranquebar: A piece of Indo-Danish cultural heritage

Tranquebar was once a Danish colony and location for trade. From 1620-1885 Denmark traded goods on Indian ground with the Danish build fort Dansborg as its keep. With trade as its foundation, Tranquebar became a platform for cultural exchange between India and Europe in terms of habits, lifestyle, religions, architecture, administration and tax collection. Today Tranquebar is still marked by the Danish colonial time – especially in relation to its architecture and way of life.

 Several cultural and educational institutions in Denmark and India are spotlighting Tranquebar with the project the Tranquebar Initiative. The Tranquebar Initiative is being arranged in collaboration with both Danish and Indian research institutions and authorities. With the Tranquebar Initiative, Denmark and India wish to collaborate within the field of research and culture. It will first and foremost put focus on Danish-Indian cultural heritage and create a foundation for new relations and collaborations. India’s colonial experience is completely overshadowed by the British Empire (…) The Tranquebar Initiative shifts the focus to other colonial experiences. The short and limited nature of the Danish encounter makes it possible to focus on certain issues in the colonial experience, which would otherwise have been obfuscated, explains A.R. Venkatachalapathyv, professor and researcher at Madras Institute of Development Studies, who is one of the partners involved in the Tranquebar Initiative.

 Sporting a variety of projects

The initiative contains a vast amount of projects. These include a wide range of basic research, research based on humanitarian consulting services in relation to the tsunami, strategic research in relation to encouraging a tourism strategy that is locally sustainable as well as research aimed at restoring buildings from the colonial time.

 The National Museum of Denmark is particularly involved in the project and will establish several exhibitions at its ethnographic collection in the near future. The exhibitions will mainly show objects from Tranquebar and tell its stories. The point is to promote and preserve the Danish colony by making pieces of it available to the public.

 Furthermore, for educational institutions it will result in new academic research material about a wide range of research areas that has been neglected so far. The Tranquebar Initiative brought together academics from Denmark and India (…) in an extended dialogue over a period of many years. Not only did it extend our knowledge of the Indo-Danish colonial encounter it also helped in understanding the way critical academic thinking and practice works in different institutional contexts, A.R. Venkatachalapathy explains. This type of co-creation will inevitably strengthen current relations as well as create a foundation for new collaborations and new approaches. I hope that a scheme for Indian doctoral students to spend time in Danish universities can also be devised, Venkatachalapathy emphasizes.

The Tranquebar Initiative is being led by Chief Inspector at the National Museum of Denmark, Christian Sune Pedersen, as head of the project and Professor at the University of Copenhagen, Esther Fihl, as head of research.

Learn more at the project’s homepage

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