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A Case of Mistaken Identity? Suikerlords and Ladies, Tempo Doeloe and the Dutch Colonial Communities in Nineteenth Century Java

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The issue of acculturation is an important one in the history and historiography of Dutch colonialism in the Indies. In so far as there is any substantial orthodoxy, it is that the orientalisation of Java's Dutch communities had become very marked by the late seventeenth century and remained so for the next two hundred years. It was only with the changed global circumstances of the late colonial era, c. 1880 onwards, that Western modes began to assert themselves effectively against those of the East. In turn, the profound acculturation prior to that date of the Dutch colonial communities in the Indies, and in Java in particular, came to be associated with the notion of a Tempo Doeloe [lit: 'time past'], which provided a salient contrast to the markers of a subsequent, late-colonial 'modernity'

This paper questions some of the basic assumptions of this orthodoxy, from a postcolonial standpoint that challenges its inherent colonial-era binaries. The nineteenth century family histories of a number of men and women - Suikerlords [Sugar Lords] and their Ladies - from the elite strata of Dutch colonial society in the Indies demonstrates that the cultural and social nexus between The Netherlands and the Indies throughout the nineteenth century was a good deal more intimate, and colonial identity significantly more ambivalent, than enduring stereotypes might allow.
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Document Type: Regular Paper

Publication date: September 1, 2001

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