PhD defence - Helle Jørgensen

For the defence of the PhD degree in History Helle Jørgensen, MA, has submitted her PhD thesis entitled: "Tranquebar - Whose History? Transnational Cultural Heritage in a Former Danish Trading Colony in South India".

The defence will be take place at Aarhus University, The Jeppe Vontillius auditorium, Bartholins Allé 3, building 1252, DK-8000 Aarhus C on Thursday 17 June 2010 at 1.15 pm.

Assessment Committee

  • Associate professor, Lisanne Wilken (chair), Department of History and Area Studies, Aarhus University
  • Professor, Mary Hancock, Department of Anthropology and History, University of California, USA
  • Professor, Sharon MacDonald, School of Sciences,University of Manchester, England

Principal Supervisor

  • Associate professor, Niels Brimnes, Department of History and Area Studies, Aarhus University

During her PhD Fellowship Helle Jørgensen has also been affiliated to the Dept. of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies at the University of Copenhagen with Esther Fihl as a secondary supervisor.

The thesis will be available to survey at Aarhus University, Department of History and Area Studies, Bartholins Allé 16, building 1410.


The town of Tranquebar on the East Coast of South India was a Danish trading colony in the years 1620-1845. Tranquebar has been declared a heritage town by the government of Tamil Nadu due to the well-preserved townscape from the Indo-Danish colonial period, and the town has for decades been subject to both Danish and Indian attempts at preservation and promotion as a destination of heritage tourism. But whose - and which - heritage is being secured through this development? The dissertation comprises an anthropological study of the dynamic social process in which the townscape of Tranquebar has become subject to promotion as a materialisation of transnational history. The focus is on the negotiations of historicity that come into play between the many stakeholders in the present development of Tranquebar, including the residents, heritage and tourism developers, public authorities, researchers, and tourists. Based on in-depth analysis of the perceptions of cultural heritage and development which are at stake in this process, as well as the practices of construction that shape the town materially and the entangling narratives and perceptions of history which emerge in the encounters between the many agents who are involved in Tranquebar, the study shows how the townscape and history of Tranquebar has developed into a continual field of negotiations, which encompasses both local livelihoods, transnational relations and (post)colonial history.