Colonial Collections Revisited

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Amsterdam University Press, 2007 - Art objects, Indonesian - 269 pages
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The story of colonial collecting is complex and full of contradictions. Collectors often appreciated the 'other' cultures where they obtained collections, but at the same time they had a close relationship with the colonial authorities who were willing to subjugate societies with military violence. This book addresses colonial collecting with examples from the Dutch East Indies and, by means of comparison, with a discussion about collecting in British India. Since the 1990s the phenomenon of collecting has become an important part of anthropological discourse. This development touches upon the foundations of the discipline, since it throws light on how the white colonizers dealt with local cultures, and thus on how the formation of the anthropological discourse took place. The study of collecting can help us to develop an anthropology of intentionality, instrumentality and desire, as Anthony Shelton argues in one of the contributions to this book. Objects do not stop 'to live' when collected. Margaret Wiener discusses the magic of the kris, which is influential even in Europe, far from the context in which the magic is created. Other chapters treat in detail the military entanglement with collecting in the Dutch East Indies. There is also attention for ethnographic collecting in the context of scholarly activities, particularly in the chapter by Ruth Barnes. The broad picture of colonial collecting ,as presented in this book, includes an analysis of the appropriation of the Indonesian Hindu-Buddhist culture by means of collecting Javanese antiquities, detailed descriptions of colonial wars (North Sumatra, South Sulawesi, Bali and Lombok) and a discussion of the cultural heritage of the Ethische Politiek. With contributions by Ruth Barnes, Francine Brinkgreve, Hari Budiarti, Brian Durrans, Wahyu Ernawati, Pieter ter Keurs, Susan Legêne, Pauline Lunsingh Scheurleer, Anthony Shelton, Harm Stevens, David Stuart-Fox and Margaret Wiener.

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About the author (2007)

Pieter ter Keurs is curator for Indonesian collections at the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology), Leiden, the Netherlands.

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