Of backyards and hinterlands: ‘Cairojan’ and Dutch Caribbean literature

Thalia Ostendorf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article will compare two works by two Black Surinamese authors from the last century: Anton de Kom (1898–1945) and Edgar Cairo (1948–2000). While keenly aware that the Netherlands/the Dutch Empire has shaped their world by forceful and violent means, in their writing both Cairo and de Kom effectively push the Netherlands to the margins. In these texts it is present as the evil force to be fought, or as the invisible past evils that have created the present, but these stories are not about the Dutch or The Netherlands. De Kom counters the Dutch narratives and heroes with those of the enslaved people who escape to the hinterlands (het binnenland), while Cairo flaunts white colonial norms with his story of what he calls ‘the backyard’ (het erf). De Kom’s hinterland and Cairo’s backyard echo chronotopes such as Paul Gilroy’s slave ship and Édouard Glissant’s metaphors of the plantation, the hinterland and the creole language. These are conceptions of the Caribbean and Black diasporic history, voicing some of the ways in which ‘culture happened’ in spite of the efforts of colonization and the plantation system, offering an alternative that is native to a transplanted people/diasporic people.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-48
Number of pages14
JournalDutch Crossing
Issue number1
Early online date5 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • Edgar Cairo
  • Anton de Kom
  • Chronotope
  • Plantation
  • Pan-Caribbean
  • Édouard Glissant


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