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Emerging Memory

Emerging Memory: Photographs of Colonial Atrocity in Dutch Cultural Remembrance

Paul Bijl
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 255
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  • Book Info
    Emerging Memory
    Book Description:

    This incisive volume brings together postcolonial studies, visual culture, and cultural memory studies to explain how the Netherlands continues to rediscover its history of violence in colonial Indonesia. Dutch commentators have frequently claimed that the colonial past and especially the violence associated with it has been "forgotten" in the Netherlands. Uncovering "lost" photographs and other documents of violence has thereby become a recurring feature aimed at unmasking a hidden truth.The author argues that, rather than absent, such images have been consistently present in the Dutch public sphere and have been widely available in print, on television, and now on the internet.Emerging Memoryshows that between memory and forgetting there is a haunted zone from which pasts that do not fit the stories nations live by keep on emerging and submerging while retaining their disturbing presence.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2201-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 9-42)

    In the Dutch East Indies – the group of islands that is now part of the Republic of Indonesia – a number of photographs of colonial atrocities were taken in 1904. This study investigates the subsequent appearances of these photographs in Dutch cultural memory, i.e. the way in which groups of people remember the past through all kinds of representations.¹ The photographs, which depict the results of massacres in villages in the Gajo and Alas lands on the island of Sumatra, were taken by the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) during a military expedition as part of the Atjeh War, which...

  5. 1 Imperial Frames, 1904
    (pp. 43-84)

    This chapter discusses the production of the 1904 photographs and the first frames which semanticized them. The distribution of the perceptible within which they were produced and first given a meaning was that of the Royal Dutch-IndischArmy (KNIL), and accordingly this chapter will primarily observe the photographs from the army’s perspective. What the army, concretely, produced were eight photographs of atrocity (i.e. photographs which depicted the corpses of Gajo and Alas villagers) as part of a larger photographic project during the expedition which yielded 173 photographs. In terms of imagetexts it made a list of captions which it sent...

  6. 2 Epistemic Anxiety and Denial, 1904-1942
    (pp. 85-134)

    This chapter investigates the social biography of the 1904 photographs as they were semanticized during the colonial period from the moment they had emerged from the social frame of the military. Although in the Indies their existence was already publicly known due to a June 1904 article in the newspaperDeli Courant(see below) and through the exhibition in Batavia in February 1905, in the Netherlands it was only in the summer of 1905 that a number of them (TT, PE, and KR₂) became part of the public debate due to the publication of Kempees’s book.⁸⁵ After 1905, the photographs...

  7. 3 Compartmentalized and Multidirectional Memory, 1949-1966
    (pp. 135-184)

    This chapter investigates the two ways in which the Atjeh photographs were framed in the first half of the 1960s. These framings proved to be fundamental for the functioning of these images in Dutch postcolonial memory. The two moments are analyzed here in one chapter to highlight the fact that, although they occurred in rather different contexts, they are intimately related to each other. In both cases, it was the same image that was used, namely KR₃ which shows soldiers and Van Daalen standing on the wall of Koetö Réh.

    The first can be found in a 1961 photo book...

  8. 4 Emerging memory, 1966-2010
    (pp. 185-222)

    This last chapter discusses the position of the Atjeh photographs since the second half of the 1960s, when the Atjeh War was increasingly connected to larger and other episodes of violence in Western modernity, including imperialism, the Holocaust, and the Vietnam War. It was specifically KR₃ and KR₂ that played a role in these debates, the first being reprinted in a new history of the Atjeh War by Paul van’t Veer published in 1969, and the second appearing in an episode of the critical television seriesIndisch ABCbroadcast in 1969-1970. These moments will be discussed in the first part...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 223-228)

    The purpose of this book was an interrogation of the binary logic of dominant accounts of memory and forgetting and a search for concepts that could more accurately describe the dynamics between these two phenomena. This interrogation was necessary because in investigating the case of the 1904 photographs, I found that both the debate on Dutch colonial memory and memory studies as a discipline lacked a conceptual apparatus to address the particular nature of the site of memory that these photographs have formed over time. What was missing was an account of memory sites that regularly emerge and submerge and...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-246)
  11. List of where the 1904 photographs have appeared
    (pp. 247-252)
  12. Index
    (pp. 253-258)