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Nurturing Indonesia
Medicine and Decolonisation in the Dutch East Indies

$105.00 (C)

Part of Global Health Histories

  • Date Published: September 2018
  • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from TBC
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108424578

$ 105.00 (C)

Temporarily unavailable - available from TBC
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About the Authors
  • Hans Pols proposes a new perspective on the history of colonial medicine from the viewpoint of indigenous physicians. The Indonesian medical profession in the Dutch East Indies actively participated in political affairs by joining and leading nationalist associations, by publishing in newspapers and magazines, and by becoming members of city councils and the colonial parliament. Indonesian physicians were motivated by their medical training, their experiences as physicians, and their subordinate position within the colonial health care system to organise, lead, and join social, cultural, and political associations. Opening with the founding of Indonesia's first political association in 1908 and continuing with the initiatives of the Association of Indonesian Physicians, Pols describes how the Rockefeller Foundation's projects inspired the formulation of a nationalist health programme. Tracing the story through the Japanese annexation, the war of independence, and independent Indonesia, Pols reveals the relationship between medicine and decolonisation, and the role of physicians in Asian history.

    • One of the first studies of the indigenous medical profession in a colonial society
    • A new perspective on the role of the medical profession and its role in the process of decolonisation, this study moves beyond the idea that medicine is a tool of empire
    • Analyses the political engagement of physicians and the medical profession
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a rigorous study of the social, intellectual and ethical spaces between nurturing and inuring, heroes and professionals, national and nationalist. Reading through the uniquely rich Dutch Indies and Indonesian archives on medicine, Pols has produced a book that will be of interest not only to historians of medicine and Asia, but also to historians of decolonization.' Rudolf Mrazek, University of Michigan

    'Nurturing Indonesia is a vivid account of the place of medicine in the making of modern Indonesia. With masterful command of sources in Dutch and Indonesian, Nurturing Indonesia brings to life the place of medical doctors in Indonesia’s national awakening. The book highlights the tensions they experienced between their medical vocation and their national aspirations and the influence of medical thinking on their conception of the nation. A fine book on the interplay between science and society in Southeast Asia.' Robert Cribb, Australian National University, Canberra

    'Hans Pols’ (University of Sydney) book offers fresh perspectives on the history of Indonesian nationalism and the sociopolitical role of medicine in the colonial context of the Netherlands East Indies. The book asks a deceptively simple question: why were doctors and medical students such prominent participants in Indonesia’s nationalist movements? Many historians of Indonesian nationalism have observed that physicians and medical students played a leading role in those movements, but few have thoroughly investigated why this might be the case, and how exactly the relationship between nationalism and medicine worked. This is the gap filled by Nurturing Indonesia. … Nurturing Indonesia will have wide appeal, as it is written with clarity and in an engaging style.' Wayan Jarrah Sastrawan, New Mandala (

    'Nurturing Indonesia is a fascinating history. Pols draws on an impressive mix of Dutch and Malay sources … to bring to life his actors and their struggles. … Nurturing Indonesia offers a major contribution to our understanding of the role of the medical profession and indigenous physicians in non-western contexts.' David S. Jones, Metascience

    'The strength of Nurturing Indonesia is its focus on the perspective of the indigenous medical professionals, the author’s nuanced treatment of their political choices, and his innovative use of an admirable number of sources in Dutch and Indonesian.' Fenneke Sysling, Isis

    '… the richness of research involved in producing this material showcases the history of medicine and nationalism in Indonesia. The contents of this book are both interesting and illuminating as Pols effectively illustrates the ideas and activities of Indonesian physicians in the Dutch East Indies, their socio-political role in politics, the national awakening that transpired throughout different periods and, finally, the relationship between nationalism and medicine.' Wan Faizah Wan Yusoff, Social Science Diliman

    'This book is relevant for anyone interested in world struggles of identity politics. Through a detailed recount of the historical influence of medical students and physicians in politics in the Indonesian archipelago throughout the 20th century, the book gives insights into people’s attempts to break racial and class caste systems through professional and political endeavours.' Theresia Citraningtyas, Asian Studies Review

    'Pols therefore looks at the relationship between medicine, colonial modernity and decolonisation, very convincingly arguing, using an abundance of material, that it was the medics’ commitment to medicine that inspired them 'to imagine a new, independent, and healthy nation'.' Leo van Bergen, Social History of Medicine

    'Nurturing Indonesia is an important contribution to the history of medicine and decolonisation in Indonesia. The result of a long hunt for sources, the book vividly illustrates the ways in which medicine informed decolonisation and vice versa.' Sebastiaan Broere, Health and History

    ‘This work is an impressive account of the past century of Indonesian history through the lens of medicine and its practitioners. This is the work of a master of the topic, and reflects his ability to apply the history of medicine to larger social and political developments in a nation, making it an important contribution in new approaches to the past in the region.’ Timothy P. Barnard, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108424578
    • length: 302 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 159 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.63kg
    • contains: 26 b/w illus. 1 map
    • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from TBC
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: colonial dreams, national awakenings, and cosmopolitan aspirations
    1. Abdul Rivai: medicine and the enticement of modernity
    2. The enchantment of cosmopolitan science: student life at the Dutch East Indies medical colleges
    3. The Indies youth movements: progress, westernisation, and cultural pride
    4. Professional aspirations and colonial ambivalence: the Association of Indies Physicians
    5. The insults of colonial psychiatry and the psychological damage of colonialism
    6. The Great Depression: Rockefeller initiatives and medical nationalism
    7. Indonesian medicine in the Greater East-Asia co-prosperity sphere
    8. Medical heroism and the Indonesian revolution
    9. Medicine in independent Indonesia: national physicians and international health
    Conclusion: the rise and fall of the national physician

  • Author

    Hans Pols, University of Sydney
    Hans Pols is Associate Professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney. He helped found the Indonesian Association of the History of Medicine (PERSEKIN) in 2009.

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