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‘A Conglomeration of […] often Conflicting Ideas’: Resolving the ‘Native Question’ in Java and the Outer Islands in the Dutch East Indies, 1900-1925

  • Joost Coté

This paper examines Dutch colonial discourse as it was developing at the beginning of the twentieth century. I argue that colonial circumstances were changing at the beginning of the twentieth century in many aspects - economic, political, social - and that these changes required new policy and administrative responses. I take as examples of these changing colonial conditions and responses, two episodes in the history of ‘the late colonial state’, which I argue are both representative of and formative in shaping, colonial policy in the last decades of Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia.

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1 The term is used by Robert Cribb to define the period 1880-1942. See Cribb, R., The Late Colonial State in Indonesia: Political and Economic Foundations of the Netherlands Indies, 1880-1942 (Leiden 1994).

2 See Locher-Scholten, E., Ethiek in Fragmenten: Vijf studiën over koloniaal denken en doen van Nederlanders in de Indonesische Archipel (Utrecht 1981).

3 See Ricklefs, M., A History of Modern Indonesia since 1200 (London 2001).

4 Kuitenbrouwer argues that this expansion within the Dutch imperial claim proves the Netherlands conforms to the same trends as that of the larger colonial powers at the time; Kuitenbrouwer, M., The Netherlands and the Rise of Modern Imperialism; Colonies and Foreign Policy, 1870-1902 (New York 1991).

5 Even islands such as Bali and Lombok adjacent to Java hardly experienced Dutch intervention during the period of ‘onthoudings politiek’, the policy of minimal intervention, maintained for much of the nineteenth century. Van Goor argues that this policy dramatically and permanently changed with the invasion of Lombok in 1894. See Goor, J. van, ‘De Lombok expeditie en het nederlandse nationalisme’ in: Goor, J. van ed., Imperialisme in de Marge: De afronding van Nederlands-lndie (Utrecht 1986).

6 There were other traditional centres of colonial settlement, such as Ambon and northern Sulawesi, and by the late nineteenth century, parts of eastern Sumatra that saw the development of an extensive plantation culture. Nevertheless Java was the most extensively settled, studied and intensely administered part of the colony.

7 Wertheim, W. ed., The Indonesian Town: Studies in Urban Sociology (The Hague 1958) 89.

8 In 1905 72.41 per cent of Europeans lived in towns and cities and 50 per cent lived in larger towns of 50,000 and over.

9 Between 1890 and 1920 male migration from Europe to Indonesia increased 200 per cent and female European migration by 300 per cent, and the rate of increase after 1920 in the European population, both on Java and in the archipelago, was significantly greater than that of the indigenous population, Doom, J. van, De Laatste Eeuiv van Indie: Ontwikkeling en ondergang van een koloniaal project (Amsterdam 1994) 43, 67.

10 Louis Couperus’ novel, De Stille Kracht, often seen as implying this view, was in fact critical of colonial modernist sentiment. He celebrated the ambiguity of the deeper layers of the life force and ridiculed both the earnestness of the liberal reformers and the colonial practitioners of conventional ‘culture’.

11 See Stoler, Anne, ‘Rethinking Colonial Categories: European Communities and the Boundaries of Rule’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 13 (1980) 134161.

12 Plas, C. van de, 1919 quoted in Doom, Van, De Laatste Eeuw van Indie, 43.

14 Dekker, Douwes, author of the well-known book. Max Havelaar (1860), advocating a new era of moral colonial rule, or Kesteren, C.E. van, editor of De Indische Gids, who editorialised in the 1880s on the possibility of an integrated colonial economy, are examples of such undue optimism.

15 Kol, H. van, Uit Onze Koloniën (Amsterdam 1903) 663.

16 Sijthoff, P.J., ‘Verslag over de Water- en Voedingsnood in de Residentie Semarang uitgebracht door de Commissie ingesteld bij Gouvernement's Besluit dd. 2 Juli, 1902, 8 (Batavia 1902). This report specifically responded to the new political rhetoric from the Netherlands and was the first report commissioned for a projected wider investigation into declining native welfare, the much larger Java-wide Mindere Welvaart Onderzoek.

17 Ibid., 111.

18 Similar conundrums faced the Netherlands missionary society missions in East Java by the end of the nineteenth century. They felt obliged to respond to the new conditions within which the Christian communities found themselves economically and also to formulate new social forms and procedures - a Christian adat - and new administrative regulations to accommodate the process of modernisation within these communities; Nortier, C.W., Van Zendingsarbeid tot Zelfstandige Kerk in Oost-Java (Hoenderloo 1939) 70106.

19 Mindere Welvaart Onderzoek, Overzicht 9b, 2 (Batavia 1912) 17; Overzicht, Slotbeschouwingen, Niet-lnlandschen Handel en Nijverheid 6 (Batavia 1914).

20 Mindere Welvaart Onderzoek, Overzicht 9b (1912) 312.

21 Mindere Welvaart Onderzoek, De Volkswelvaart Xb, 2 (1914) 108.

22 Mindere Welvaart Onderzoek, Overzicht van de Uikkomsten der Gewestelijke Onderzoekingen naar ‘t Recht en de Politie VIII a, 1, (1912) 89.

23 Mindere Welvaart Onderzoek, Overzicht, ‘t Recht en Politie VIIIb, 1 (1911) 8788.

24 Estimates of their number varied according to criteria. In 1901 Brooshooft estimated their number at 20,000, almost half the number of colonially born Europeans of mixed descent the total of which constituted three quarters of the European population; Brooshooft (1901) 113. The later Pauperism Commission estimated that 11 per cent or 6,000 of the European population (excluding those in Batavia) were paupers; Rapport der Pauperisme Commissie (Batavia 1903) 8.

25 The question of fin de siècle cultural attitudes in the Netherlands has been a widely debated historiographical question. See for instance Rooy, P. de, ‘“Een hevig gewarrel”: Humanitair idealisme en socialisme in Nederland rond de eeuwwisseling’, Bijdragen en Mededeellngen Betreffende de Geschiedenis van Nederland 106 (1991) 625640; Sas, N.C.F., ‘Fin de siècle als nieuw begin: Nationalisms in Nederland rond 1900’, Bijdragen en Mededeelingen Betreffende de Geschiedenis van Nederland 106 (1991) 595609.

26 The criticism of Bas Veth, a former colonial, in his 1900 publication Het Leuen in Nederlandsch Indie represents the most virulent expression of the rejection of colonial society as a whole. Other commentators were more selective in their criticism focussing on the poorer Indo class specifically.

27 See Tichelman, F., Socialisme in Indonesia (Dordrecht 1985). Brooshooft, the person who coined the term ‘Ethical policy’ while ‘unaligned’, also voiced a strong anti-capitalist critique.

28 Metropolitan ‘reformers’ meanwhile were advocating the role of women as messengers and missionaries of civilisation in the colonies implicitly adding their voice to the general criticism of the colonial settler. See Coté, J.“Our Indies Colony”: Reading First Wave Dutch Feminism from the Periphery’, The European Journal of Women's Studies 6 (1999) 463484.

29 Brooshooft included urban dwellers and ‘kampung Indo's’, those persons of mixed descent who lived in the kampong of their Javanese mothers. His estimate of the European population was 51,000. Similar descriptions of the anti-social, criminal and what was deemed as generally unacceptable behaviour of the pauper group in towns and in the countryside are provided by Brooshooft (1901), the Pauperism Commissie (1903) and Mindere Weluaart Onderzoek (1914).

30 Rapport der Pauperisms Commissie, 58.

31 Ibid., 51. Between half and two thirds of the 75,000 legally designated Europeans at the time were of mixed descent and a small number racially non-European but granted legal status. Fifteen years previously, in 1885, the European population was approximately 47,000, 35,000 of whom were born in the colonies, the vast majority of whom were of mixed European and Indonesian descent.

32 Bas Veth specifically contrasted the lndisch colonial settler to the ‘true blue’ Dutch farmer stock who safeguarded the biological purity of the nation.

33 Implicitly and explicitly the 1903 official report harked back to a sensational confidential private report entitled ‘Een Onderzoek naar den Toestand van het Nederlandsch-lndisch Leger uit een Zedelijk Oogpunt Beschouwd’ (An investigation into the condition of the Netherlands Indies Army from a moral perspective) (1898) prepared by the Society for the Promotion of Morality in the Dutch Overseas Possessions and the Dutch Association against Prostitution which had detailed the lurid sexual arrangements in the colonial garrisons.

34 Rapport der Pauperisme Commissie, 46.

35 The newly formed Indo-European organisation Insulinde, notwithstanding. Indeed the political organisaton of the Indo including the later Indische Partij lead by Douwes Dekker in alliance with Soewardi Soejardinigrat and Tjipto Mangoenkoesoemo can be read as a necessary oppositon to the new alliance of ‘pur sang’ economic interests.

36 See Mayne's discussion of the representation of the slum; Mayne, A., The Imagined Slum: Newspaper Representation in Three Cities, 1870-1914 (Leicester 1993).

37 The title significantly derives from two Javanese words, ‘kromo’, the term for ‘the common man’ and ‘blanda’ the term for (colonial) Dutchmen.

38 Coté, J., ‘Towards an Architecture of Association: H.F. Tillema and the Construction of Colonial Modernity’ in: Nas, P. ed., The Indonesian Town Revisited (Singapore 2002) 319347.

39 Tillema, H.F., Van Wonen en Bewonen, van Bouwen, Huis en Erf (Tjandi-Semarang 1913) 33.

40 Tillema, H.F., Kromoblanda 1 (The Hague 1915) 25.

41 Ibid., 27.

42 Ibid., 7.

43 As Van Vugt points out, as he developed this argument on the importance of the tropical colony in underpinning the rising affluence of Europe's industrial and economic boom in the twenties, Tillema also emphasised the moral theme that some of Europe's affluence ought, if only out of self-interest, to be returned in the form of improved health and welfare; Vugt, E. van, Een propagandist nan het zuiuerste water: H.F. Tillema (1870-1952) en de fotografie van tempo doeloe (Amsterdam 1993) 9.

44 In particular, this argument was very reminiscent of that of the former Semarang resident, journalist and newspaper editor Pieter Brooshooft, editor of the influential Semarang paper, De Locomotief. See Locher-Scholten, E., ‘Mr P. Brooshooft: Een biographische schets in koloniaal-ethisch perspectief’ in: Locher-Scholten, E., Ethiek in Fragmenten (Utrecht n.d.) 1154.

45 Tillema, , Van Wonen en Bewonen, 104.

46 Tillema, H.F., Riolana (Semarang 1911) 45.

47 Ibid., 22.

48 Tillema, , Van Wonen en Bewonen (1913) 79.

49 Tillema, , Kromoblanda 1 (1915) 17.

50 Tillema, H.F., Zonder Tropen, Geen Europa (Bloemendaal 1925) 13.

51 For an account of Tillema's later contributions to Indonesian ethnography see King, V., A Journey among the Peoples of Central Borneo in Word and Picture (Oxford 1989).

52 Margaret Jolly argues on the basis of an investigation of Pacific Ocean colonies that missionaries had a particular fascination with the medico-moral issues of the population question. See Jolly, M., and Ram, K. eds, Maternities and Modernities: Colonial and Postcolonial Experiences in Asia and the Pacific (Cambridge 1998).

53 In his final publication, Zonder Tropen, Geen Europa, Tillema devoted thirty of the forty pages to a statistical tables providing evidence of child mortality from selected Outer Island regions.

54 In Tillema's former hometown of Semarang, the Indonesian Marxist Tan Malaka had begun to establish schools for children of the PKI in 1920 and in the Netherlands the Indonesian students organisation Perhimpunan Indonesia were developing a radical political agenda under the leadership of Mohammed Hatta.

55 Tillema, , Zonder Tropen, Geen Europa, 17.

56 Kuitenbrouwer defines the expansion of Dutch authority in the archipelago at the beginning of the twentieth century as imperial expansion, akin to the territorial expansion undertaken by other imperial powers. See M. Kuitenbrouwer, op. cit.

57 The ‘pacification’ campaign and more significantly the rhetoric of incorporation has been dated from the defeat of the colonial army in Lombok in 1894, which, Van Goor argues, finally united colonial and metropolitan support for a new incisive colonial policy. Goor, J. van, ‘De Lombok expeditie en het Nederlandse Nationalisme’ in: Goor, J. van ed., Imperialisme in de Marge: De Afronding van Nederlands-lndie (Utrecht 1985). The incorporation of New Guinea occurred later.

58 Fasseur notes that after 1913 no colonial officials were trained in the colony and the colonial bureaucracy in the field was from then on formed entirely by a dedicated University level professional training program in the Netherlands. This also involved rejection of plans emanating from some colonial quarters urging the unification of the native and European civil service, and thus increasing the separation between European and indigenous elites; Fasseur, C., De Indologen: Ambtenaren uoor de Oost (Amsterdam 1993). Van Goor argues that the incorporation of the archipelago both resulted from, and was only made possible by, modern developments in communications; Goor, Van, De Lombok expeditie, 21.

59 For a detailed discussion of mission and colonial relations in Central Sulawesi to 1925 see Coté, J. The Colonisation and Schooling of the To Pamona of Central Sulawesi, 1895-1925 (Masters Thesis, Monash University 1980). See also Arts, J., ‘Zending en Bestuur op Midden Celebes tussen 1890 en 1920: van samenwerking naar confrontatie en eigen verantwoordelijkheid’ in: Goor, J. van ed., Imperialisme in de Marge, 85122. For earlier and more recent discussions see respectively Kruyt, J., Het Zendingsueld Poso: Geschiedenis van een Konfrontatie (Kampen 1970) and Schrauwers, A., Colonial ‘Reformation’ in the Highlands of Central Sulawesi, 1892-1995 (Toronto 2000).

60 After Indonesian independence this community took the name Gereja Kristen Sulawesi Tengah (GKST) [Christian Church of Central Sulawesi].

61 He produced almost five hundred published articles, the majority published in mission journals but many in the leading Dutch academic periodicals of his day, and three major ethnographical monographs. Supplementing this is an almost complete personal record consisting of a diary-cum-letter copybook for the duration of the period and an extensive archive documenting mission and colonial government activity.

62 Adriani, a qualified linguist employed by the Netherlands Bible Society to document and transcribe the oral languages of the region and provide Bible translations (and later, school books), was responsible for the third of the three volumes dealing largely with Pamona oral literature. While clearly respecting Kruyt and participating to some extent in the evangelising project, Adriani's writing shows he was far less sanguine than Kruyt about the methods (if not the end goal) of colonisation. He disagreed with Kruyt on a number of ethnological issues and socially and intellectually he was far closer than Kruyt to the ‘ethici’ in the political centres of Batavia and The Hague.

63 This resulted basically from the fact that the Pamona clans inhabited the heart of Sulawesi thus forming an ill defined boundary between southern and northern Sulawesi Islamic states which, under pressure, were now seeking to define their territorial and economic influence. Social political and economic changes had consequently begun before missionary Kruyt began his work and he recognised that he was stepping into a moving stream, not initiating change.

64 Nortier, C.W., Van Zendingsarbeid tot Zelfstandige Kerk in Oost-Jaua (Hoenderloo 1939) 7582. This assistance included trade training as well as a regulated system of poor relief.

65 Dr H. Bervoets, who took over the administration of the Modjowarno mission hospital in 1894, was widely referred to by colonial progressives at the time while he himself was an important contributor to the wider discourse on native health and welfare.

66 Nortier, , Van Zendingsarbeid, 82.

67 As a result of his experiences in Poso, Gobée returned to the Netherlands to study under Snouck Hurgronje in Leiden. In 1927 he became Colonial Adviser for Native Affairs. Engelenberg had by 1912 become an influential and conservative colonial official. Doel, H.W. van den, De Stille Macht: Het Europese binnenlands bestuur op Java en Madoera, 1808-1942 (Amsterdam n.d.) 247249. Later he became leader of a conservative organisation supporting European sugar interests, the Nederlandsch-lndische Politiek Economische Bond, as well as member of the influential settler organisation, Indo-Europees Verbond; Bosma, U., Karel Zaalberg: Journalist en strijder voor de Indo (Leiden n.d.) 314, 321.

68 Engelenberg (1906) quoted in Schrauwers, , Colonial ‘Reformation’, 48.

69 See Coté, Colonisation and Schooling, 140144. Here I argue that Engelenberg's plan developed from discussions he had held with Kruyt.

70 For a political biography Colijn and his role in the formulation of Anti-revolutionary colonial policy and practice see Langeveld, H., Dit leuen van krachtig handelen: Hendrikus Colijn 1869-1944 (Meppel 1998).

71 SeeCoté, , Colonisation and Schooling, chapter 7; Arts, J., ‘Zending en bestuur’.

72 Brouwer, K.J., Dr. Albert Kruyt, Dienaar der Toradja (The Hague 1951) 91.

73 See Downes, R., The Religion of the Bare'e Speaking Toradja of Central Celebes (PhD thesis Leiden 1956). Downes summarises: ‘All of Kruyt's writing was marred by a preoccupation with a succession of dubious theories that was no doubt due to his lack of anthropological training.’ (Preface.)

74 This conclusion is based on the archival record. See also Kruyt, J., Het Zendingsueld Poso, 120.

75 For the operation of mission schools including details of curriculum see Coté, Colonisation and Schooling. The first school reading books prepared by Adriani were Spel-en Leesboekje in de Bare'e-Taal, 40, and Leesboekje in de Bare'e-Taal, 41; these books were published in Batavia in 1899 and 1900 respectively.

76 This importantly distinguished him from secular ‘associationists’ such as C. Snouck Hurgronje. The latter argued that, since the majority of the archipelago's inhabitants were Muslim, a policy of encouraging the expansion of mission influence would be counter productive to an attempt to win over the indigenous population to western values. Snouck Hurgronje did concede however that in ‘heathen’ regions it was better to promote Christian influence since that would secure pro-Dutch sentiment; Hurgronje, C. Snouck, Nederland en de Islam (1911). Snouck Hurgronje was a supportive correspondent of Kruyt's. As late as 1970 Kruyt's son, Jan Kruyt, writes scathingly about attempts of the Roman Catholic missionaries to ‘penetrate’ the Netherlands Missionary Society domains in Sulawesi; Kruyt, J., Het Zendingsueld Poso, 345346.

77 The language question was a major issue of debate in Java amongst nationalists and colonial reformers. Socialists also tended to argue for vernacular language use while initially nationalists argued for access to Dutch.

78 This was noted by contemporary Swedish ethnographers of the region; see Kaudem, W., Ethnographical Studies in Celebes: Results of the Author's Expeditions to Celebes, 1917-1920 1 (Götenberg 1925) 29.

79 For a summary of changes in this period and Kruyt's involvement see my Colonising Central Sulawesi: The Ethical Policy and Imperialist Expansion, 1890-1910’, Itinerario 21/3-4 (1997) 87107.

80 Kruyt, A.C., ‘Gegevens voor het Bevolkingsvraagstuk van een Gedeelte van Midden Celebes’, Tijdschrift voor liederlandsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap 20 (1903) 190205. Tillema quoted Kruyt's writing extensively by 1915. See Kromoblanda 1 passim and throughout the remaining volumes.

81 As critics of modernity have pointed out, rationalisation produced its own irrationality. Colonial order entailed the suppression of demands for emancipation, which necessitated the ‘irrational’ and increasingly punitive forms of surveillance and incarceration of nationalists.

82 Bauman, Z., Modernity and Ambiguity (Cambridge 1991).

83 Burns, P., ‘The Myth of Adat’, Journal of Legal Pluralism 28 (1989) 1127, 9.

84 See Geschiere, P.L, ‘De meningsvorming over het onderwijsprobleem in de Nederlandsch-Indische samenleving van de 20ste eeuw: De controversie “Westersch” of “nationaal onderwijs”’, Bijdragen en Meededelingen Betreffende de Nederlandsche Geschiedenis (1969) 4386, 53. Geschiere's argument here focuses on the debate as it was played out in terms of education.

85 Ibid., 8.

86 Turner, F.M., Contesting Cultural Authority: Essays in Victorian Intellectual Life (Cambridge 1993) 101. Turner, in discussing nineteenth-century Britain, sees a gradual shift in the grounding of a social vision from a religious one associated with ‘natural theology’ to one in which the terms of reference were located in a ‘time-limited [i.e. historical] frame of reference’.

87 Jan Kruyt carefully and very self-consciously discusses this question in which he played a central role after his father's departure. He cites council minutes for February 1938: ‘the question is posed if we can yet consider our native communities as having their own church councils [kerkenraad] capable of guiding community life. This question is answered in the negative even though indications are that such councils will develop. The direction is still clearly provided by the missionaries.’ Kruyt, J., Het Zendingsueld Poso, 339340.

88 Autonomous church leaders amongst the Pamona were only appointed when the Japanese set foot in Sulawesi and missionaries were on the point of being taken into custody. See Kruyt, J., Het Zendingsoeld Poso, 342.

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