1 December 2020

A Silenced Story of Global South Asian Belonging: Surinamese Hindustani Heritage at the NMVW

BROWN BAG SESSION | 1 Dec 2020 | 16:00 - 17:00 CET | Online, Teams 

Joey Stofberg, an intern from the University of Groningen, will briefly present the results of his research at the NMVW. 

If you would like to take part in this brown bag session, please send an email to

Joey will engage in a conversation with his research mentor at the NMVW Priya Swamy and respondents Erdogan Aykaç and Louise Autar

In recent months, Dutch ethnographic museums have repeatedly found themselves in the media spotlight, as both activists and the Council for Culture called public attention to the past complicity of these museums in colonial violences. The NMVW’s Hindustani collection, too, finds itself tainted by Dutch colonial legacies. Until the 1990s, museum collectors and curators primarily sought to represent cultures in their “essential” form, a desire that likely stemmed from a colonial hierarchical understanding of cultures, which presupposed Western primacy. As they limited their collecting and curatorial practices to elements that they deemed “authentic” to a culture, diasporic cultures were often left misrepresented. As such, Dutch ethnographic museums long deemed the diasporic culture of Surinamese Hindustanis neither “truly Surinamese” nor “truly South Asian.” A representational gap continues to eclipse Hindustani cultural heritage at the NMVW into the present day. Although the museum does hold a small Hindustani collection, its contents omit important aspects of Hindustani culture and its history of colonial oppression under indentureship. This project calls attention to opportunities for using the NMVW collections to forge alternative representations of Hindustani culture—and its global South Asian diasporic counterparts—by shedding light on Global South Asian connectivities, which the logic of these collections historically obscured, from the spread of (new) religious ideas to the enjoyment of Bollywood entertainment. These questions of connectivity allow us to imagine what our exhibitions could look like if they took transnational cultural networks as a starting point rather than fixed geographical classifications, and how such a representational shift may contribute to the more equitable representational futures that the NMVW is already seeking to inaugurate through its recent focus on reconciliation and self-representation.


Joey Stofberg is a second-year Research Master’s student of Modern History and International Relations at the University of Groningen and an intern at the Research Center for Material Culture. As a researcher, Joey is particularly interested in “belonging” in globalized, postcolonial, and post-digital contexts and informed by actor-network theory as well as intersectional, decolonial, and queer critique. At the RCMC, Joey is engaged in a project on the role of colonial epistemologies in shaping representations of Surinamese Hindustanis in the collections and exhibitions of the National Museum of World Cultures. In 2019, Joey acquired a Bachelor of Arts degree in History (cum laude) from the University of Amsterdam, with a final thesis on the societal changes of early Dutch telephony, which was awarded the Skriptieprijs 2019. Whilst studying in Amsterdam, Joey spent a semester at University College Dublin and also undertook an honours research internship in computational linguistics at the Meertens Institute in Amsterdam.