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Gatty Lecture, Arnout van der Meer, "Performing Colonialism"

Thursday, October 25, 2018 at 12:00pm

Kahin Center
640 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

Arnout van der Meer, Assistant Professor of History, Colby College

Performing Colonialism: Hegemony, Representative Culture, and Resistance in Late Colonial Indonesia

In 1913 a Javanese public prosecutor clashed with his colonial superior over his refusal to crouch and sit on the floor, conform to the Javanese language hierarchy, and wear traditional dress. This seemingly minor incident culminated in an overhaul of the appearance of Dutch hegemony and a widespread emancipatory social change in colonial Indonesia. Unpacking these events, it will be demonstrated how colonial dominance in Indonesia was legitimized, maintained as well as negotiated and contested through similar everyday public performances between colonizer and colonized. In the nineteenth century the Dutch deliberately sought to legitimize their authority through the appropriation of local etiquette, deference rituals, status symbols, architectural styles, dress, and culinary traditions. However, material and visual culture were not only important for the legitimization of colonial power, but also for its contestation. Around the turn of the twentieth century various local and global processes converged – such as the onset of the Dutch equivalent of the civilizing mission, the increased number of Western educated Indonesians, the rise of Japan, and the popularity of Islamic Modernism – that inspired Indonesians to challenge the colonial performance. Through acts of cultural resistance, a new generation of Indonesians contested the colonial hegemonic script and the racial and gender equalities that it sustained. This empowering experience raised the question of what it meant to be modern and in particular what it meant to be Indonesian.

Co-sponsored by the Department of History.

Lunch will be provided.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, History, Southeast Asia Program

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James Nagy

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Arnout van der Meer

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Department of History, Colby College

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