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Colonising Central Sulawesi. The ‘Ethical Policy’ and Imperialist Expansion 1890–1910

  • Joost Coté

The aim of this paper is to investigate the nature of Dutch colonial policy at the turn of the twentieth century in what was then the Netherlands East Indies.’ Referred to in the historiography of this period as ‘the ethical policy’, it is usually characterized as a welfare or developmentalist government. More recent comparisons have drawn attention to similarities between twentieth-century colony policy and the New Order Indonesian policy with a focus on economic growth and the lack of individual ‘development’. ‘Ethical policy’ is not usually a term applied to the politics of other imperialist powers, which begs the question that somehow Dutch colonialism was different. Recent comparative research by M. Kuitenbrouwer, A. Stoler and J. Breman has questioned this assumption.

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1 An earlier version of this paper was presented to the Asian Studies Association Conference in Brisbane, 1980.

2 Cribb, R., ‘Development Policy in the Early Twentieth Century’ in: Dirkse, J. et al. eds, Indonesia' Experiences Under the New Order (Leiden 1989).

3 Kuitenbrouwer, M., The Netherlands and the Rise of Modem Imperialism: Colonies and Foreign Policy, 1810–1902 (New York and Oxford 1991); Stoler, A., Capitalism and Confrontation in Sumatra' Plantation Belt, 1870–1979 (New Haven 1985). Rethinking Colonial Categories: European Communities and the Boundaries of Rule’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 13 (1989); Breman, J., Koelies, Planters en Koloniak Politiek (Leiden 1987); Hei Beest aan Banden? De Koloniale Geest aan het Begin van de Twintigste Eeuw’, Bijdrngen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 144 (1989).

4 Locher-Scholten, E.B., Ethiek in Fragmenten: Vijf Studies over Koloniaal Den ken en Doen van Nederlanders in de Indonesische Archipel, 1977–1942 (Utrecht 1981). A similar paradigm is used by Ricklefs, Ricklefs. M., A History of Modem Indonesia Since 1300 (London 1993).

5 A more recent volume edited by Cribb, , The Late Colonial State in Indonesia: Political and Economic. Foundations of the Netherlands Indies 1880–1942 (Leiden 1994), published after this paper was written does draw together recent Dutch scholarship which has effectively returned the balance to an investigation of colonial state formation, as argued here. This paper in focusing on the formation of regional administrative structure fits into the broader colonial-wide focus of the majority of the chapters in that volume. In particular, the chapter by Fasseur points to the ultimate contradiction of a colonial policy claiming to be Indonesian-centric and implicitly establishes the definition of ‘ethical’ as ‘guardianship’, a paternalistic and rhetorical turn which justified suppression of emancipatory claims on the one hand and the maintenance of a colonial structure on the other.

6 Otterspeer, W., ‘The Ethical Imperative’ in: Otterspeer, W. ed., Leiden Oriental Connections (Leiden 1991).

7 See in particular the research of Lindblad, J.Th., Between Dayak and the Dutch: The Economic History of Southeast Kalimantan, 1880–1942 (Dordrecht 1988) and Lindblad, J.Th. ed., New Challenges in the Modern Economic History of Indonesia (Leiden 1993) and Lindblad, and Clemens, eds, Het Belong van de Buitengewesten (Amsterdam 1989).

8 Apart from the exemplary on-going work of Professor Sarlono in this regard, this is indicated in the proceedings of the first conference on Indonesia' economic history held in Jakarta in 1991 as reflected in: Lindblad, J.T. ed., Nau Challenges in the Modern Economic History of Indonesia (Leiden 1993).

10 See the broader discussion in Otterspeer, ‘Ethical Imperative’. The apparent conflict within this academic circle between Snouck Hurgronje' ‘associationism’ and van Vollenhoven' ‘traditionalism’ was not so great in practice. Both perceived their work as a contribution to colonial policy formation and in particular had an anti-Islamic agenda (‘adat’ after all allowed a distinction to be drawn between ‘traditional’ and ‘foreign influence’) and it had been van Vollenhoven' endeavour to ‘rationalise traditional custom’ and thus bring ‘tradition’ into modernity. Snouck wished to avoid this kind of codification since this would obstruct the evolutionary process of change which ‘association’ would inevitably induce.

11 For a detailed discussion of this connection see Kuitenbrouwer, Modern Imperialism, chapter 3.

12 As Kuitenbrouwer argues, unlike other imperialist powers Dutch territorial expansion took place within the confines of its designated sphere of influence. In all other respects Dutch behaviour is similar to that of the larger imperialist powers.

13 This is of course a highly condensed summary. The argument turns on the extent to which a radical symbolism in Dutch nationalism and colonial policy reformism was appropriated by Western-educated early Indonesian modernists on the one hand and the extent to which Dutch nationalism expressed in colonial policy excited more fundamental nationalist responses on the part of the colonised on the other.

14 Legge, J., Indonesia (Sydney 1977) 102103.

15 For instance this is the justification provided by Snouck Hurgronje. See W. Otterspeer, ‘Ethical Imperative’.

16 Reference to the A.R.P. policy cited in Brouwer, B.J., De Houding van Idenburg en Colijn tegenover de Indonesische Beweging (Amsterdam 1958) 2.

17 A detailed discussion of colonial policy in Central Sulawesi between 1895 and 1925 can be found in Cote, J., ‘The Colonisation and Schooling of the To Pamona of Central Sulawesi, 1895–1925’ (Unpublished Master' thesis, Monash 1980).

18 This included sightings of an Australian party searching for gold.

19 Verslag, Koloniaal [Colonial Report], 18941895 (Batavia) 27.

20 Assistant resident of Gorontalo to resident of Menado, Toelichting van het Al of Niet Wenschelijke van het Verlenen van Mijnconcessies in de Tomini Bocht, 22 March 1891 [Notes on the desirability or otherwise of providing mining licences in the Bay of Tomini], Kruyt Archive, Hendrik Kramer Instituut, Oegstgeest, Netherlands. All further reference to unpublished material relates to this archive and copies of material held by the author.

22 This view was communicated to the Netherlands Missionary Society by its Menado based correspondent, Rev. Wieland in a letter to the NMS of 15 November 1888, Kruyt Archive.

23 Editor' note to an article by A.J.M. Engelenberg, ‘Ons Bestuursbeleid in Nederlandsch Indie’ [Our Government Policy in the Netherlands Indies], Het Vaderland (5 August 1904).

24 This is suggested by missionary Albert Kruyt' correspondence at the time and in an official unpublished document by the official for Outer Island administration, H. Colijn in 1906. Kruyt was well known to Snouck Hurgronje who, while against evangelization in Islamic areas, saw the conversion in ‘neutral zones’ as politically astute. Engelenberg was known to Snouck Hurgronje since they co-operated in West Java in arranging the education of Achmad Djajdiningrat.

25 Engelenberg saw his mission as being ‘to bring to the people a period of prosperity, of wealthy settlements and of physical strength’. Engelenberg to Kruyt, 20 June 1903, Kruyt Archive.

26 Engelenberg to Resident of Menado, 27 September 1903, Kruyt Archive, Confidential no. 720/6.

28 Snouck Hurgronje to Kruyt, 1 May 1903, Kruyt Archive.

29 Engelenberg, ‘Ons Bestuursbeleid in Nederlandsche Indie’.

31 Engelenberg went to see these ‘experts’ privately on arrival in the Netherlands. Van Deventer' views were reported in De Indische Gids in a report of his speech to the Indische Genoolschap in 1904. The journal' editor shared Van Deventer' views. In a parallel article, ‘De Tomini Bocht’, the resident of Menado, Engelenberg' superior voiced the same scepticism, De Indische Gids (1904) 1666.

32 J.W.T. Cohen-Stuart, ‘Oprichting van Inlandsche Rechtscholen’ [The Establishment of Native Law Schools], De Indische Gids (1907) 1332–1333.

33 Van Deventer, the advocate of ethical policies in the Dutch parliament stated in a 1902 article ‘Indie en de Democratic’ [The Indies and Democracy] that the ordinary people did not need (Western) education. Socialist advocate of a welfare-ist colonial policy, Henry van Kol, argued that any education provided to the Indonesian masses should be practical, an argument also used by progressive educationists in Europe and Australia in reference to the working classes.

34 This attitude was expressed by missionary and amateur ethnologist Albert Kruyt in an influential article entitled ‘The Influence of Western Civilisation on the Inhabitants of Poso’ in: Schrieke, B.J. ed., The Effect of Western Influence on Native Civilisation in the Malay Archipelago (Batavia 1929). Kruyt was an adviser and participant in the process of subjugation and later colonisation although with the change in policy direction after 1915 he was severely critical of government policy towards the Christian mission. He was given an.honorary degree for his ethnographical work in recognition of his voluminous writing on the people and culture of this region. For a complete bibliography see J. Coté, ‘The Colonisation and Schooling of the To Pamona’.

35 Evidence the discussion of H. Colijn in his ‘Nota van de Regeering van het Bestuur enz. in de Afdeeling Midden Celebes’, 22 April 1906 [Comments on the administration of the government of the province of Central Celebes], Kruyt Archive.

36 Kruyt' views were reproduced in detail in Gegevens voor het Bevolkingsvraagstuk van een Cedeelte van Midden Celebes’ [Evidence Relating to the Population Question in a Part of Central Celebes], Tijdschrifl voor Nederlandsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap 20 (1903) 190205. It is fairly evident that this publication in a leading academic journal was designed to influence government policy in the area.

37 According to W. Kaudern, a Swedish ethnologist who visited the area a decade later. Kaudern, W., Ethnological Studies in Celebes: Results of the Author' Expedition to Celebes, 1917–19201 (Gotenborg 1925) 3153.

38 Hofman, Ph.H.C., ‘De Zending in Poso Gedurende 1906’ [Mission Work in Poso for the Year 1906], Mededelingen vanwege het Nederlandsch Zendelingengenootschap 51 (1907) 345.

39 This discussion of the consequences of the introduction of sawah cultivation is based on a critical reading of Kruyt' article DeBetekenisvan de Natte Rijstbouw voor de Posso-ers’ [The Significance of Wet Rice Cultivation for the People of Poso], Koloniale Studim 8 (1924) 3153.

40 Colijn' comment is in his ‘Nota van de Regeerings Commissaris voor Decentralisatie’, 12 September 1907 [Memorandum by the Commissioner for Decentralisation]. The local administrator expressed his remarks directly to missionary Kruyt in an undated note of 1908.

41 H. Colijn, De Organisatie van het Bestuur enz. in de Afdeeling Midden Celebes, 23 April 1906, Kruyt Archive.

42 This was the nature of the 1906 memorandum. The 1907 memorandum (see note 40) was aimed at further refining the principles developed in the 1906 working paper. The details and principles of these two documents are discussed in the following section of this paper.

43 P. Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (1986). Chatterjee here is concerned to show the derivative nature of Indian nationalist discourse and his argument can to an extent be applied to the Indonesian nationalist movement.

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