The South Indian town of Tranquebar was a Danish colony between 1620 and 1845, and several historical buildings and structures from this period remain in the town today. A group of Danish volunteers called the Tranquebar Association are trying to restore the historical buildings, which they consider a legacy of the “golden age” of Denmark. I wanted to find out what relationship the local Indians had to the buildings, and the history of the place, comparing their views with those of the Danish. In this text I will discuss the different meanings the historical buildings in the town of Tranquebar in South India has to different groups of people living in or active in the area. To do this I examine the connection between buildings as significant places, or ethnoscapes as parts of different boundariless “neighbourhoods” to the different groups, and the different historical narratives of the different groups. These narratives are as much products of the different identities of the different groups as they are tools to shape these identities, and proved central in establishing places of significance in the space of Tranquebar, and also in the surrounding area (foremost the village of Tarangambadi).
The town of Tranquebar and the village of Tarangambadi comprise a space where different groups have different ethnical “neighbourhoods” formed around different significant places. These places are of varying importance to the different groups, dependent on their relative places in the different narratives. Where two groups connect the same places with different narratives it is a source of conflict as to who can establish the significance of the places. The narratives themselves are not sources of conflict. In spite of different interpretations of the same general event history, the historical narratives are primarily for internal consumption inside the groups, not for establishing hegemony over the other narratives.