Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Dagmar Herzog

Committee Members

Mary Roldán

Joan W. Scott

Todd Shepard

Gary Wilder

Subject Categories

Caribbean Languages and Societies | European History | History of Gender | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies


Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, colonialism, decolonization, sexual politics


This dissertation examines the unique trajectory of decolonization in the Netherlands and its former Caribbean colonies and argues that sexual and reproductive politics have played a pivotal role in forging a postcolonial commonwealth state. Using sexual politics as a lens, “Closer Ties” explores how postcolonial ties between the Netherlands and its former Caribbean dependencies have strengthened rather than severed in the aftermath of colonial rule. This alternative ending of empire challenges the assumed trajectory of decolonization and locates the drama of imperial dissolution in debates over sexual and reproductive rights in Europe. Looking to the circuits of trans-Atlantic exchange across the Kingdom of the Netherlands, a commonwealth state linking the Netherlands and six Dutch Antillean islands, “Closer Ties” explores the remarkable investment in knowledge production, development aid and social welfare that emerged only at empire’s end, and views related debates on sexual politics as sites where Dutch power is both exercised and contested. As this dissertation demonstrates, preoccupation with the perceived conjugal norms, gender roles and sexuality of Antillean Dutch has undergirded drastic changes to the geography of the Dutch state and notions of citizenship, variously justifying both the expansion and the retrenchment of Dutch boundaries, aid, and social services. In this process, and however paradoxically, trans-Atlantic exchange has intensified. By viewing decolonization not as a parting of ways, but rather as a strengthening of ties, this dissertation will contribute to a reconceptualization of the end of empire and its aftermath.