Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm
640 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA
"Appropriating Place: The Geographies of Colonial Invasion in Highland Aceh, Sumatra (Indonesia), 1904 – 1914"
Matthew Minarchek, PhD Candidate, Department of History, Cornell University
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, European imperialism was characterized by military expansion into the peripheries of empire. In colonial Indonesia, the Dutch sent numerous military expeditions into the interiors of the so-called outer islands in an attempt to consolidate the vast archipelago into a unified colonial territory. The colonial militarization of highland Aceh, Sumatra was part of this territorial ‘rounding off’ process. The Dutch also considered the Gayo and Alaslands to be the final hurdle in pacifying the region after more than three decades of war in Aceh. This talk examines the 1904 Dutch military invasion and annexation of the Gayo and Alaslands in the mountainous interior of northern Sumatra.
The military campaign in Aceh was marked with incredible violence, as the brigades razed villages and massacred native peoples. Officers and soldiers also appropriated indigenous property, stealing material items off bodies, transforming villages into military barracks, and raiding food supplies and slaughtering animals. Military invasion as a colonial process was premised on physical violence, but it was also about erasing the past meanings of place and creating new imaginings and representations of peoples and of space more broadly. Following the military invasion, for instance, the Dutch established new borders, legal regulations, social hierarchies, society-nature relations, and geographical imaginings of the Gayo and Alaslands. In this talk, I draw on historical research in numerous countries to interrogate the complex dynamics of spatial appropriation and the transformation of place in highland Aceh in the early 1900s, and their impacts on the local human experience. Close attention to the geographies of military invasion and territorial annexation offers insight into how the Dutch forged empire at the turn of the twentieth century and how local peoples resisted, participated in, and experienced colonialism in the periphery of the periphery.