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Abstract. Engelsk version.

The project is innovative and is considered to be of Danish as well as international interest. It investigates the health of slaves and associated healing practices in the former Danish West Indies (the present US Virgin Islands). The project is premised on the relatively new and exciting notion that the healing practices of the slaves, primarily plant-based and of African origin, deserve to be studied in their own right and as they intact with the dominant model of Western (and Danish) medicine. It emphasizes the relevance of African culture when studying healing in the islands and subjects the usually underexposed direct correlation between Africa and the West Indies to a critical examination. In this connection the perspective of the slaves themselves, a perspective that is generally ignored, comes to the fore.

 In writing the narrative of healing, the project ‘oscillates’ between 2 groups of data connecting it to past and contemporary (present-day) African and Caribbean-based healing discourses, as seen from the perspective of the slaves and Afro-Caribbeans. Constituting a bridge between the past and the present are current studies of healing in Africa as well as the knowledge and practices of healing with plants preserved in the memories of a few living descendants (so-called ‘weed women’) of slaves in the Danish West Indies (George Tyson, personal communication). These data contain much of the novel and stimulating approach to Danish colonial history and the appreciation of different ways and cultures which deserve full representation in our rendition of European and non-European interactions. It may come as a surprise to some that formerly (17th-19th century) the Danes were the 7th largest slave trading nation and transported about 100,000 Africans (about the same number perished along the way) to its West Indian possessions.

The emphasis of this project is on encouraging - through its oscillating and narrative method – interest and making the subject matter of slavery, health, the African factor, other cultures, as they are embedded in Danish colonial history and the relationship between the Danes and their slaves, relevant to the general public and students in Danish high schools.

 The project positions itself centrally with regard to the aim and initiatives of the National Museum of Denmark (Nationalmuseet) and its research activities concerning former Danish tropical colonies, cf. the other Galathea 3 projects mentioned under ‘Kultur og Historie’, including the ‘Tranquebar Initiative’ and the researches by Bente Wolff and Inger Schellerup.

The aim of the project is to publish the results as articles and a book-length study. Various publishers, in the UK (James Currey Publishers) and Denmark (Gyldendals Forlag), are currently being contacted. The book is intended to describe and analyze various key areas and represent an important resource and work of reference that may guide the National Museum of Denmark, The Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Danish educational sector in its representation of (Danish) colonial history in the tropics (see also Danish abstract).

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