|Urban Poor and the Colonial Connection|
|In the latter half of the 19'century welfare projects were being conducted in many of Europe's big cities, in order to raise the conditions for the poor part of the urban population. In Copenhagen this effort were undertaken not only by city officials, but also by private organisations consisting of mainly middleclass members. The purpose of this paper is to show how middleclass perceptions of the poor part of the population in Copenhagen in the latter half of the 19’century bear remarkable similarities with their perception of the indigenous population in Greenland (colonised by Denmark since 1721).
The similarity consist of a rhetorical staging of the two groups as filthy, dangerous and strange, often being described as untameable and difficult to control. In Copenhagen visits or inspections to the houses where rooms were being let to the poor were organised by private philanthropic organisations, and journalists wrote descriptions of the horrible conditions in these places. In Greenland many doctors and other colonial officials described how the Greenlanders were living under conditions that were similarly horrible. The central aspects of these descriptions were the same: the homes and the inhabitants were unclean (thereby posing a health risk), the sexual relations were not under adequate control (since the inhabitants lacked even the simplest self control), and the inhabitants were not able to exercise the necessary discipline to better their own situation.
With this paper I would like to address this issue in order to make differences and similarities between middleclass perceptions of the two groups in the latter half of the 19’century appear. Theoretically the essential notion is that the development in metropole and colony needs to be examined in the same analytical field in order to shed new light on the development in both places. (Frederick Cooper/Ann Laura Stoler ed.: Tensions of Empire. Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World, University of California Press, Berkely, 1997 and Catherine Hall: Civilising subjects. Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830 – 1867. Polity Press, Cambridge, 2002) The descriptions mentioned above, together with sources from an institution founded with the purpose of providing accommodation for Greenlanders while they were receiving education in Copenhagen, will provide the empirical background for the analysis conducted in the paper.|