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Women and the Colonial State

Women and the Colonial State: Essays on Gender and Modernity in the Netherlands Indies 1900-1942

Elsbeth Locher-Scholten
Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 251
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  • Book Info
    Women and the Colonial State
    Book Description:

    Woman and the Colonial State deals with the ambiguous relationship between women of both the European and the Indonesian population and the colonial state in the former Netherlands Indies in the first half of the twentieth century. Based on new data from a variety of sources: colonial archives, journals, household manuals, children's literature, and press surveys, it analyses the women-state relationship by presenting five empirical studies on subjects, in which women figured prominently at the time: Indonesian labour, Indonesian servants in colonial homes, Dutch colonial fashion and food, the feminist struggle for the vote and the intense debate about monogamy of and by women at the end of the 1930s. An introductory essay combines the outcomes of the case studies and relates those to debates about Orientalism, the construction of whiteness, and to questions of modernity and the colonial state formation This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0577-7
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 9-12)
  4. I By Way of a Prologue and Epilogue: Gender, Modernity and the Colonial State
    (pp. 13-48)

    Other times, other photos. In the mid-I950Sone could visit ‘the greatest photographic exposition of all times’ in Western capitals like New York, London, Paris, and Amsterdam. Presented under the title ‘The Family of Man’, it exposed the many faces of mankind in multiple shades of black, grey and white to the Western world: photos of people of all ages, places and races, in groups, in couples or alone, human beings in love, during pregnancy and birth, at games and in grief, at work and in their old age. From the happy Indian flute player displayed on the poster to the...

  5. II Female Labour in Twentieth-Century Colonial Java: European Notions - Indonesian Practices
    (pp. 49-84)

    The apostle Peter had already described women as the ‘weaker vessel’ in his Biblical letters (I Peter 3:7). His image ofwomen as the weaker sex was of considerable influence on nineteenth-century labour legislation with regard to women in Europe. For its own sake this ‘weaker vessel’ was not allowed to work outside the home or only to a limited extent. This would not only be for the women’s own well-being, but also for that oftheir families. Christian and socialist ideas of protecting the weak fitted in remarkably well with the ideology of the family, as it developed in the industrialised...

  6. III ‘SO Close and Yet so Far’: European Ambivalence towards Javanese Servants
    (pp. 85-120)

    Ofall the dominated groups in the former colonies, domestic servants were the mostsub-altem’. Silenced by the subservient nature of their work and the sub ordinated social class they came from, Indonesian or Javanese servants in the former Netherlands Indies were neither expected nor allowed to speak for themselves. Nor did they ever acquire a voice because ofpressures in the labour market, as was the case with domestic servants in twentieth-century Europe.’ Because of the large numbers of Indonesian servants, the principle of supply and demand functioned to their disadvantage. Therefore, it is rather difficult to present these servants’ historical voices...

  7. IV Summer Dresses and Canned Food: European Women and Western Lifestyles
    (pp. 121-150)

    ‘The ruin ofempire’ or ‘the most noxious figure in the annals of British imperialisrn” statements about white women in the colonies have rarelybeen flattering. In British fiction, the influence of thememsahibin British colonies is explicitly condemned. Famous authors like E.M. Forster and W. Somerset Maugham scarcely hide their contempt for these idle ladies - whether of upper-class or humble birth - who came to the colonies and failed to understand the rules and realities of empire. They paint a picture of white women destroying not only the warm colonial relationship between (male) colonial masters and (female) colonised servants,...

  8. V Feminism, Citizenship and the Struggle for Women’s Suffrage in a Colonial Context
    (pp. 151-186)

    The colonial state, which developed in the Netherlands Indies at the turn of the twentieth century, would produce only a fragmented and refractured Western democracy. Representative government, delegation of administrative authoriry to councils, direct participation ofthe population through representation and political parties, as well as concomitant voting rights were introduced slowly and gradually, depending on the estimated level ofeducation of the population. Colonial democracy was a patchwork of limited rights and extensive regulations, originating in the strident Dutch wish to control political developments among the indigenous population as closely as possible. A mature democracy along Western lines was considered a...

  9. VI Marriage, Morality and Modernity: The 1937 Debate on Monogamy
    (pp. 187-218)

    In the twentieth century, educated Indonesian elite women began to seek out new forms of marriage, which would guarantee them (emotional) equality with their husbands. A modern partnership should prevent the painful experiences ‘out of the blue’ - of repudiation and polygamy mentioned above. Their longings concurred with the convictions of the Dutch colonial authorities, which were marked by a strong sense ofpuritanism where sexual and marital relations were concerned.

    During the nineteenth century the European ideal ofa stable monogamous marriage was already serving as the measure by which customs of all the population groups were compared. The extramarital relations...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-238)
  11. Glossary
    (pp. 239-240)
  12. Index
    (pp. 241-251)