Institutional Memory in the Making of Dutch Colonial Culture in Asia (1700–1870)
This chapter argues for a new approach to the history of ideas in Dutch colonialism, asking how Dutch colonial officials and church ministers justified their work. Drawing on the vast locally produced archives and collections in Indonesia and the Netherlands, the chapter breaks away from the historiographical traditions that view the VOC and nineteenth-century colonialism in Asia as different. Fragments from the VOC and colonial archives—produced locally in Asia in the process of performing colonialism—illustrate the historical embeddedness and hybridity of colonial practice and ideas. Inspired by organisational anthropology, Schrikker understands the colonial archive as an institutional memory in which ideas, experience, and practices were passed on between generations of actors. This approach sheds new light on the history of ideas underpinning empire.
This article is a reworked version of the conference paper presented at the Visions of Empire conference in Leiden in September 2016 and my original project proposal for the NWO funded research project ‘Institutional memory in the making of colonial culture: history, experience and ideas in Dutch colonialism in Asia, 1700–1870’ that is currently running, until 2022. The initial text benefitted greatly from the feedback by Remco Raben and Marieke Bloembergen, while René Koekkoek and Anne-Isabelle Richard gave valuable comments to the current version.