Fellow 2019/2020

Mitchell Esajas

Anthropologist, curator, and social entrepreneur Mitchell Esajas is involved in various community projects in education, employment, diversity, and sustainability and is Co-Founder and Chairman of New Urban Collective, a network for students and young professionals from diverse backgrounds with a focus on the Surinamese, Caribbean, and African diaspora. Having studied Business Studies and Anthropology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, in 2016 he co-founded The Black Archives, Amsterdam, a unique collection of books, documents, and artifacts documenting the history of black people and black resistance in the Dutch context. Based on the collection, The Black Archives develops work with artists, activists, and scholars, as well as exhibitions and other public activities, winning the 2018 Amsterdam Art Prize. Esajas is a BAK 2019/2020 Fellow. Esajas lives and works in Amsterdam.

Fellowship Research Trajectory

In the fields of Postcolonial studies, Black studies, and Africana studies, scholars have remained relatively silent on post-slavery struggles and movements in the Dutch Caribbean context. Mitchell Esajas’s research breaks this silence by articulating the changes and continuities between different generations of Dutch-Caribbean thinkers and activists, and explores a genealogy of anti-racist and anti-colonial activism among Dutch-Caribbean people. Historical narratives, in particular around colonial history and resistance, are contextually specific, and are formed by particular narrators in contexts of power relations. In networks of marginalized communities it is alternative sources, archives, and historical narratives that contribute to important counter-narratives that challenge dominant academic ones. By combining research in archives, in particular The Black Archives, Amsterdam, with oral history and research on artistic practices related to this history, Esajas’s research helps to gain insight into the contributions of Dutch Caribbean thinkers and activists to the development of Black radical intellectual traditions. Some questions that inform his research are: How were ideas and information exchanged within intra-Caribbean, inter-American, and trans-Atlantic networks of Dutch Caribbean and other anti-colonial activists? What was the role of art in Dutch Caribbean anti-colonial and anti-racist organizations and networks? How are the works of these anti-colonial and anti-racist Dutch Caribbean thinkers and organizers mobilized in contemporary struggles over race, ethnicity, gender/sexuality, and political belonging in the Netherlands?