In the communication of pain, language matters. Telling someone to feel pain is not just a description of one’s pain, it is – as philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein informs us – also asking for recognition of that pain. This requires a shared language which communicates it. Do we need a new language which can communicate and recognize the pain of the colonial past more effectively? Commencing with the recent apology for waging a colonial warin Indonesia by the Dutch prime minister, this article suggests an intervention in post-colonial recognition politics by exploring the idea of the multi-voicedness. Multi-voicedness (Meerstemmigheid) has become a catchword in current public and scholarly debates about the Dutch colonial past and its legacy, in which decades of recognition politics have tended to privilege clear-cut binary identities favouring certain voices above others. There is little conceptual clarity around what the term multi-voicedness entails and even less about its utility in post-colonial discourse. Although commonly associated with juxtaposing different perspectives, this article argues that introducing the lens of multi-voicedness – more specifically the idea of the dialogical self (Hubert J.M. Hermans 2004) – into the recognition discourse, contributes to a better understanding of transnational recognition politics. Capturing the diaspora’s multi-voicedness permits wider scrutiny of what is otherwise a too simplified identity and generation question implicated in post-colonial recognition politics. It will be argued that recognition claims, although supposedly part of an emancipatory struggle, are silencing the multi-voicedness of entangled Indonesian-Dutch family history, the driver for the fight for justice in the first place.


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